Saturday, March 14, 2015

Does Technology Help or Hurt Our Student's Future?

I recently spent a weekend at an education conference where teachers from all over got together to discuss best practices, new methods, and more. A big concept of the weekend was "conversations" and I got into an interesting debate with a fellow GCT. It stated innocent enough, as most debates do, but soon I realized I was actually arguing against technology.

So here was the start of the discussion: I was telling my colleague about a funny (in a sad way) story about when my students were taking a computer based reading test. One of my seventh graders, who reads on a third grade level, had headphones on in the computer lab. Our computer teacher said that some students put the headphones on as a way to cut out distractions so I didn't think much of it at first. When I walked past his station I realized that the headphones weren't being used to block the outside noise; I heard some sound coming from them. This student was using the browsers "text to speech" feature to listen to the story. I immediately muted the headphones and told the student to take them off, but the fact was this student used the technology to get around the issue.

Should we fault students for using the technology to solve their problems? During class, we help our students when they struggle to read. In fact, I'm the one that originally showed that student how to use the text to speech feature. However, technology is now becoming a crutch for some of our students. Why learn how to read when a phone will do it for you. Are some students not capable of reading? Are they lazy? I don't believe either of these to be the case. I feel that this generation just doesn't know any different.

From the time these students were born, some form of modern technology has existed. Today's student has never lived in a world without the Internet. This is where the debate began because as a younger teacher many of my more seasoned colleagues often look towards the millennials as if we are in that same situation. Yes. I grew up with technology but not the same way our students do. I had a 36k dial-up modem and AOL 2.0. I remember a time of card catalogs and needing to physically go to the library to complete a research project.

So what can we do as educators to prevent our students from over-relying on their technology? Can we force them to ignore the resources that technology has made possible? I doubt it. Should we just give up and allow the next generation to become lazy? No, that's not the right solution either. We as educators need to find the compromise between the two extremes. Let's keep the discussion going and prepare our students for a well-rounded future.

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