Criticisms of In-Classroom Technology
Technology has the potential to transform and improve learning. However, there are distinct dangers to any change in curriculum or teaching strategy. It is impossible to predict with 100% certainty how change will impact educational outcomes. Technology, particularly, brings challenges that students, teachers and administrators need to address before they are able to safely adopt technology within schools.
Moderate use of computers in the classroom has been shown to correlate with improved learning outcomes. Very frequent use of computers, however, has been shown to deteriorate outcomes. It is an absolute necessity to make the right choices when it comes to technology. Successful digital application requires planning. That applies to the purchase and installation of the technology. It also applies to training and the manner in which it is used in the classroom. Technology has to be selectively applied for a purpose and integrated into a wider teaching strategy. Even with proper planning, there are challenges that are difficult to fully address.
General Concerns About In-Class Tech
Although there are criticisms of every individual technological initiative for in-classroom use of digital technology, there are a few common criticisms that anyone looking to deliver the digital school of the future needs to be aware of. These include:
- A lot of time and resources are being spent on technologies that have not been proven in a classroom setting.
- The continued maintenance of that technology is an ongoing cost.
- Existing infrastructure is insufficient in many cases to meet the demands of devices and programmes being put in place.
- There is a ‘digital divide’ between those with access to digital technology and the internet and those that don't.
- Improper safety protocols have been developed. This relates to both the data security of student information and how students themselves use access to technology — cyberbullying, sexting and access/sharing of inappropriate content.
- Teachers have insufficient training to optimally utilise the technology they already have and further investments may not achieve maximum ROI (return-on-investment).
The Digital Divide
The ‘digital divide’ references the fact that different people have variable access to technology in their own lives. This is a major concern for those interested in creating equitable digital learning experiences. This is particularly true for the deployment of BYOD policies and flipped classrooms.
Realistically, schools should be able to make special considerations and provisions on an as-needed basis. This is often easier said than done, particularly in the state sector. What schools should recognise, however, is that a divide exists regardless of technology. Technology introduces a new unequitable factor, but it can also help deliver more equitable outcomes.
When it comes to flipped classrooms, for example, students with involved parents will receive help with their traditional homework (making the home more like a flipped classroom) while students with uninvolved parents will miss out on this opportunity. From this perspective, the flipped classroom is an equaliser as much as it deepens any gaps that may exist.
For the sake of comparison: 78% of UK adults own a laptop, 85% own a smartphone and 68% own a tablet. 90% of UK households have access to the internet. That is up from 57% in 2006. Only 11% of parents surveyed say that they spend an hour per day helping their children with homework. This lags behind other countries.
It is also important to note that a digital literacy divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students exists similar to that which persists in literacy and maths skills. This is something that schools need to address in order to prepare everyone for the modern workforce. Using technology in the classroom is a vital part of doing that.
Summary: In-Classroom Technology Needs to Be Approach Cautiously with a Plan
In order to achieve good results, teachers and administrators need to carefully plan for the use of technology. It must be integrated into teaching strategies and approached with a purpose. Doing this requires understanding technology — this may be the greatest challenge teachers and administrators must face. There is evidence that the true digital divide exists between students and teachers, not between students.
97% of 15-to-24-year-olds have basic digital skills. If you focus on kids over 16, 87% have good or excellent levels of digital literacy — this is compared to 37% of their teachers. If you look at students, on the whole, that number drops to 60%. But, this contrast still opens up the possibility that students should be helping their teachers when it comes to digitising the classroom. Taking advantage of the digital expertise of digital natives may be one creative way to make improvements in how classrooms operate.
Students with good or excellent digital literacy:
- Primary school: 10%
- Secondary school: 75%
- Over 16: 87%
Teachers with good or excellent digital literacy:
- Primary school: 63%
- Secondary school: 41%
- Higher education: 37%
Technology may be the answer to improving the digital literacy of teachers. Providing lines of communication between the teachers that understand technology and those that don’t can help improve outcomes across the board. Globally, 56% of primary schools and 62% of secondary schools have staff specifically to help teachers understand and integrate new technology through peer-support groups. Social media and ‘quick polling’ apps like Survey Monkey can enable teachers to get feedback from students. It is important that schools remain open to creative solutions to solving the challenges of using technology in schools.