DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES: DISTRACTION OR BENEFIT TO THE CLASSROOM?

For current students, whether you may be in secondary education or university, digital technologies are just day-to-day objects we come face-to-face with when learning. From something as small and simple as a calculator to solve our mathematical problems, to the more current use of iMacs and iPads for research and programming skills, digital technologies undeniably play a huge role in current education. However, are emergent digital technologies distracting students from their learning and therefore creating a negative impact on education?

 

“Put your phones away” seems to be a common and relatable phrase used by teachers in a modern-day classroom. Smartphones, despite their stable societal role and common use in the U.K, are an emergent digital technology, with new models being released what seems to be like every few months. However, these are not only to be used by the average working adult; in fact, a recent 2018 study shows that more than 25% of children under the age of six own a smartphone with nearly half of these children spending up to 21 hours a week on their device (Click here for more information.)

 

Yes, that’s right, children under six are now in possession of a smartphone. Putting all the “Who are they messaging? The tooth fairy?” jokes aside, smartphones or other emergent digital technologies such as tablets can be argued to be an enormous distraction to one of the most important aspects of a student’s life: their education.

 

In an article written by Mike Elgan (2017), a strong statement is made: “Smartphones make people distracted and unproductive.” Of course, a life with a smart device means a life with unlimited entertainment; from social media apps, to games, to subscription apps such as Netflix. Youth technology safety specialist, Amy Scholl, states that “high phone usage can definitely correlate to negative academic performances.” According to a study conducted by the London School of Economics, after schools banned mobile phones, the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4%, which is equivalent of adding five days to the school year,” (Read more here).

 

On the contrary, despite smartphones and other emerging digital technologies having their drawbacks, they also hold a variety of benefits and opportunities to enhance learning. Just as Amy Scholl also argues, digital technologies can also be a great addition and helpful in the classroom. (More on Amy Scholl’s argument here.)

All in all, emergent digital technologies have much more to offer than the standard social media platforms to use as a distraction in the classroom. Whether we like it or not, technology will remain our daily companion, however it is how we choose to use it. Patrick J. Skerrett of Harvard Medical School claims that smartphone activity is stimulating to the brain. If we use digital technologies to our advantage within our education, the results may be highly beneficial. Even social media networks such as Youtube, are often used in classrooms not only by students, but also by teachers. Youtube is a platform not only providing your daily dose of cat videos, but a wide range of educational clips that can be used to describe and simplify any topic you can think of to better your knowledge and understanding. For example, struggling to remember how to use the Pythagorean Theorem in your homework? Here is a video showing you how to do just that: click here.

 

As well as this, thanks to emergent digital technologies, students are able to have access to educational platforms and learn outside the classroom. When struggling to understand aspects of a topic and not having immediate access to classroom resources or the help of a teacher, students are able to search and learn from the comfort of their own home, using digital technologies such as tablets or smartphones that may be frowned upon in the classroom. Thus, access to education outside the traditional realm of the school gates, is a huge benefit and overall impact to the education of students caused by emergent digital technologies.

 

One of the most current and emerging digital technologies today that is already growing an enormous impact on the future of education is MOOCs. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are “free online courses available for anyone to enroll.” MOOC.org state that they “provide an affordable and flexible way to learn new skills, advance your career and deliver quality educational experiences at scale.” More information can be found at: MOOC.org. With emerging online courses, education is able to take place outside the classroom for people of all ages who are willing to learn. Education is now not only stereotypically aimed at children and young adults, but anyone and everyone, revealing the great current and future impact of emerging digital technologies.

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