In this post, I will discuss some factors that both teachers and parents should keep in consideration, to prevent the available technological resources being misused, or worse, abused:
- Education technology is not meant to simply keep children busy - There is no dearth of captivating computer games and engaging mobile apps for kids. However, teachers have to ensure that the tools children use actually have educational elements as well. The purpose of using technology should be facilitating the learning process of young ones - these gadgets are much more than mere playthings to only keep them occupied.
- Web resources are not substitutes of physical texts and references - A folly that even many leading academics commit. The World Wide Web, accessed either via desktop/laptop computers or handheld devices, is used only to gather information on various topics. While there is no doubt that this is a much more convenient option than having to browse through the catalogs of public libraries - not all references have online versions (particularly the old ones). What’s more, technology also offers the scope of USING the gathered information - it is far from a mere medium for jotting down notes!
- Technology should aid, not distract - Unfortunately, such scenarios often crop up in classrooms around the world. For instance, a recent survey in New Hampshire revealed that students continue to text and/or play mobile games - even during important class lectures. Apart from hampering the concentration of the learners, such activities irk teachers as well - and harsh penalties have to be imposed in many cases. Even approved ebooks and iPhone apps for kids should be used only during the designated time. Education technology should never emerge as a classroom nuisance.
- Cyberbullying has to be handled with care - There are social networking sites galore, and that has not necessarily proved to be a good thing. It is easy for a child/teen to use the anonymity that the world of cyber interactions offer, and to threaten/bully a peer, or even a teacher. Unpleasant scenarios of someone publishing lewd comments, uploading obscene pictures and/or exchanging profanities over the virtual medium are not really uncommon. It is of essence that proper parental control is implemented on all types of technology use by children. The latter also have to be taught the importance of following a stringent code of conduct online.
- Technology should never be put to redundant usage - From kids’ creches & nursery schools, to even at homes - it has become a common practice to draw pictures, read books, and play games ONLY on the computer or on a smartphone screen. As a result, the ability and willingness to make paper sketches, or to curl up with a good book, drops considerably. Parents and teachers need to remember that education technology is supposed to perform such functions which are impossible (or too difficult) to be done manually. There are plenty of things that can be done without tech-help.
- Offering technology to a select group of students - This is more of a shortcoming of teachers, rather than a potential downside of technology. Not all toddlers and pre-schoolers are equally comfortable while learning to use education technology tools - and it is up to professional instructors to bring the ones lagging behind up to level. Unfortunately, this is often overlooked in classrooms, and only the more tech-savvy students manage to derive the full benefits of learning aids. This reeks of favoritism, and is a grossly skewed way of using technology.
- Technology need not hamper the social skills of students - Practically every kid of the present generation has an active Facebook and/or Twitter account - most of which have literally hundreds of "friends." Many of the popular educational apps for kids also offer seamless social media integration, via which learners can connect with peers from other schools/universities. However, it has to be ensured that gadgets (no matter how useful they might be) do not take up all the time and attention of children during their formative years. There are no replacements for human interaction.
- Teachers need to be conversant with education technology first - There is a general notion that many teachers (particularly, the relative old-timers) are rather reluctant to include new-age technological aides in their teaching methods. This is not entirely false, since learning the use of apparently complicated computer learning programs and kids’ apps might seem to be a daunting task at first. If teachers are not sincere enough in becoming conversant with technology themselves, how can they teach their students to properly use the same?
- Simply learning to use technology is not an achievement - Thanks to the marketing efforts and promotional pitches of contemporary mobile application development companies and advocates of e-learning, becoming familiar with the functions of the latest apps and gadgets is, at times, considered to be an achievement in itself. This should never be the case - for what matters is not how many tools a kid knows to operate, but whether (s)he can actually glean academic benefits from them. There are no marks for learning to use an ipad!
- The 24x7 availability of technology should not be a problem - Most top-level educational institutions have started including interactive computer and mobile games as part of the overall curriculum of junior students. Such software generally offer ample scopes for the little ones to get acquainted with the basics of many subjects, like Maths and English. Parents, however, have to be wary about the rather addictive nature of these virtual gaming applications. Kids have the propensity to keep using their favorite gadgets longer than necessary - neglecting their regular studies in the process. Laptops and phones should not be used at odd hours (late at night, for example) either.
Ross Smythe is the chief concept developer at Teknowledge Mobile Studio. He regularly writes on the web, primarily on various topics related to education technology.