"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Impact of Technology on Learning

Last night, my nine-year old son was using my smartphone. I thought he was checking on his current collection of football cards in the Topps Kick app. Then, I heard him talked on the phone, "Okay, Google, how old is Neymar, Junior? The phone answered, "Neymar is 23 years old." My son was using Google's Voice Search app on my phone. So I took the phone and asked, "Okay, Google, What is a hygrometer", since my son's fourth grade class was currently studying weather in their science class. The phone answered, "Hygrometer, an instrument for measuring the humidity of the air or a gas". To say the least, I made the excitement disappear.

It is truly amazing what digital devices can do. I can check on my smartphone on how my students are doing in their homework. The flipside is students can check on something else while they are listening to my lecture. I do walk around the classroom while I give the lecture so that probably discourages students from opening an app on their digital devices, but nationwide, the amount of time spent by students on digital devices inside the classroom doing unrelated tasks has been on the rise. A recent survey involving more than 600 students across 26 states made by Bernard McCoy from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln shows that students inside classrooms are using a smartphone or another digital device 20 percent of the time on distractions.

Above copied from the Journal of Media Education
By comparing classes, one can see that the younger students are using digital devices more for non-classroom related activities. It is clearly getting worse.

Above copied from the Journal of Media Education
The main reason why students are doing these apparently is boredom. Listening or paying attention to a lecture is indeed taxing. It requires, as noted by McCoy, self-control. McCoy writes in his discussion:
Respondents said fighting boredom (63%) in the classroom was a leading reason they used digital devices for non-class activities. This suggests a need for students to learn more effective self-control techniques to keep them focused on the learning at hand in classroom settings. It also suggests instructors might benefit from learning and experimenting with new ways to engage college students in classroom activities that might reduce boredom and minimize disruptions caused by non-class uses of digital devices. 
I did not push my son to use my smartphone to help him review science. I was in fact amazed that he found out on his own how to do Voice Search. But I am hoping that we, teachers and parents, are soon able to catch up with technology.




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