In today's society, technology has become an accepted medium for communication. From email correspondence that has taken the place of mail, to texting instead of talking, advances in technology have become integrated into our daily lives. However, the line should be drawn when it comes to technology impeding academics and being incorporated into the classroom. Although many support the notion of technology in the class, others see it as an unnecessary distraction to learning. Following is a critical evaluation of the advantages and decided disadvantages to technology in the classroom.
Does Technology Belong in the Classroom?
Since the advent of the computer and the internet not many years ago, it seems as if technological advances have continued to thrive and grow at exponential rates. To suggest that whether individuals like it or not, technology has impacted their lives is an understatement. Technology has significantly changed the manner in which individuals' communicate, how business is conducted, how relationships are initiated and maintained and how children are educated in school. It goes without saying that there are decided advantages to having technology as it serves to expedite communication, satisfy the need for instantaneous response and feedback, as well as provide an ecologically friendly manner for previously written transactions to take place in a paperless form.
However, just as there have been noted advantages to the use of advanced technology, there are also notable disadvantages that must be considered. As technology advances, machines and robotics begin to replace human capital which in turn results in less jobs in an already stagnated economy. Moreover, the use of technology amongst the young has replaced active and extracurricular activities resulting in, for the first time in generations, a pandemic of children, adolescents and young adults who because of inactive lifestyles for the first time may not outlive their parents (Ballard, & Alessi, 2004; Barlow & Dietz, 2002). In addition, because of access, availability, and advancements in technology, children are now being exposed to a new kind of bullying that would otherwise never occur at the rates cyberbullying occurs amongst the young. Cyberbullying is generally defined as bullying that transpires outside the traditional realm of face-to-face contact. Perpetrators of this kind of bullying tend to use technology as the medium by which verbal and visual threats and acts of aggression take place. The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying as "use of the internet, cell phone or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person" (Nansel et al.., 2001; NCPC, 2008). This is in no way to suggest that traditional forms of bullying are any better and didn't exist prior to the advent of technology; however, with traditional bullying, access to the victim was more times than not, limited to the classroom, school or neighborhood of origin. Now, because of the use of technology in bullying victims have very little opportunity to escape their attackers and the group of witnesses is expanded ten-fold as pictures, threats, and other aversive measures can be spread to a larger group at a much faster rate (David-Ferdon & Hertz 2007).
Although many argue the benefits of technology in the classroom, there are equally as many who view this option as deleterious to the learning environment. Computers and technology are tools, and as with any other education tool, can be used to enhance learning, but in no way should replace teacher-student interaction and authentic pedagogy based on student strengths and needs. One would suspect that because of the prolific nature of computers and technology that much scholarly literature and empirical studies would have been conducted with regard to efficaciousness in the classroom setting. However, there is a paucity of scholarly literature and empirical study regarding technologies effectiveness in the classroom, and the majority of what is readily available has been conducted by software companies that have a vested interest in ensuring this notion receives a positive and favorable light (Shotsberger & Vatter, 2001). As such, it is essential to take an unbiased look at those advantages posited as well as the disadvantages technology in the classroom represents.
Those in Favor
Those in favor of technology in the classroom point to some plausible benefits to the student, educator, and the learning environment in general. For example, when students use technology in the classroom, they are no longer passive recipients of information. They take on a much more interactive role in the learning process, as they must make decisions with regard to the negotiation of, generation, manipulation and display of information. In addition, some argue that technology in the classroom allows for more students to be actively engaged in the learning process, and students are more able to evaluate his or her own progress, define goals, and make critical decisions when technology supports the educators' pedagogy.
The role of the instructor changes as well. For example, the teacher is no longer the single source for dissemination of information nor the center of attention when technology is incorporated into the classroom. The teacher is required to facilitate the learning process and provide more guidance and act as a resource for the children rather than the sole authoritative source. Moreover, proponents of technology in the classroom universally maintain that children are more motivated to learn and take greater initiative rather than with conventional academic tasks and instruction. Because the software is designed to appeal to the children's sensibilities, visually and audibly, quite naturally children find it interesting and appealing. Computers provide instantaneous feedback and a response rate that is much faster than in a wireless classroom setting. Another associated benefit posited by those who support technology in the classroom derives from the argument that children are able to positively interact with their peer cohort and work cooperatively as well as offer peer tutoring (Shotsberger & Vatter, 2001).
Although the answer to whether technology in the classroom is advantageous or disadvantageous, friend or foe, strength or weakness, those opposing technology in the classroom do posit a meritorious argument, as well.
Disadvantages to Technology in the Classroom
Is everything that appeals to a child good for a child? If this question were taken outside of the context of technology in the classroom, the answer to this question for most would be a resounding "no." As such, why is the exception made when it comes to technology in the classroom? Yes it is true, software developers ensure that the manner in which they design technology-based curriculum appeals to the child and holds the child's attention, but does that necessarily mean it is good for the child? This truly may seem like a favorable or positive characteristic; however, if we were discussing television that holds a child's attention or is appealing to a child, would we argue on that premise alone that television is beneficial for a child? Just because the television or technology in the classroom appeals to the child does not mean that the child is educated in the process. Is there any insurance of the education value of the technology offered that serves as a means to entertain children in the classroom? In the absence of unbiased reviews, empirical studies, and scholarly literature to support this notion, where is the proof? The bells and whistles that would denote educational may be there; however, in many instances the information produced for the classroom is not developed by those who fully understand the educational needs of the child. As such, technology in the classroom may not be as valuable as originally considered (Bracey, 1996).
Although the pro argument for computers and technology in the classroom touts feedback as one of the benefits of use, others argue just the opposite. For example, Cindy Emmans (2001), an education professor at Central Washington University advised,
Often feedback is the key to learning, and computers are appealing because this feedback can be immediate, which is of course a very effectively learning tool. Unfortunately, this feedback is not often as effective as it might be, perhaps because it is not easy to return to the original question to try again, or the students must begin at the beginning to review the original content rather than backing up a step or two. In some cases, the feedback for the wrong answers is more appealing than that for the right answer, causing students to try and get the wrong answer simply for the entertainment value, (p. 324).
There have been additional arguments purported with regard to technology in the classroom and whether it is beneficial or a distraction in the classroom. The Alliance for Childhood published a statement citing that computers in the classroom were not advantageous. According to the publication, more than 85 recognized authorities in their given fields inclusive of education, philosophy, psychiatry, and psychology called for the suspension of the promotion of computers in the nations' classrooms until there is more careful and thorough assessment of their effect or efficaciousness (Hafner, 2000). J. Healy in her book, "Failure to Connect: How…