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Ask the Readers Education

Discuss: Is Technology Changing How We Learn?

school ipad | Inkwell Scholars
Technology in the Classroom.
Photo Credit: OnlineUniversities.com

Today marks the first day of spring classes at the Academy! And we’re kicking off the semester with a special Ask the Readers blog post.

We want to hear from you! What’s your opinion on technology in the classroom?

If you are an educator in a brick and mortar school or even a homeschool, how do you use technology in the classroom? If you are a student, how do you think technology can be used more innovatively?

Do you think there are any drawbacks to introducing laptops or even iPads into the classroom over traditional textbooks? Do you think online classes can effectively replace real life interaction with students and a teacher? Have you ever taken an online class?

Is technology changing the way we learn?

Here at the Academy, we try to balance technology with traditional teaching methods:

  • Students turn in typed essays, but also write by hand during the 20 minute impromptu writing session at the beginning of class.
  • We have begun developing a grammar course with video based lessons. If students are struggling with one of these topics, we can email them a link to the video lesson or show the video in class.
  • We often supplement our lectures with powerpoint presentations and short video clips. (But nothing can beat the good old whiteboard).
  • In-class activities sometimes involve technology. One semester, students learned about persuasive writing by using laptops to record short commercials which they then presented to the entire class.
  • We’ve also developed this website and blog where students can find more resources and inspiration, and where they can keep in touch throughout the week.

Don’t forget to chime in. Add your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Nicole Bianchi

Nicole Bianchi is the founder of Inkwell Scholars. Find out more here.

25 replies on “Discuss: Is Technology Changing How We Learn?”

Technology is probably changing WHAT we learn. Most people have internet access in their pockets, and so the need for remembering facts and figures is far less. People can simply look them up now. Understanding concepts and being creative can take more focus now.

Great point, Jon! Technology can definitely help foster that creativity, though it’s also good to encourage students to unplug from devices (computers, cellphones, iPads) and have a chance to recharge their brains and interact with others.

Found your blog via ProBlogger’s Discussion challenge.
When I was in university, I was in both classes at school and online courses. I feel like I benefited more from actually going to class, having interaction with other people and listening to the Prof speak. Since being online for online courses, I feel like I was able to wander off to Twitter or Facebook and get distracted more. At least in a classroom, I can avoid bringing a laptop and take handwritten notes, plus I felt like I remember things more when I write them down rather than type them up. I definitely feel like handwriting is becoming a lost art form too. Many people online have more grammar and spelling mistakes. It’s horrifying. I think people need to get back to basics: learn to hand write then use a computer, just like learning to walk before you run.

Lots of food for thought here, Steph. Some of my classes at college allowed laptops in the classroom for taking lecture notes; others were much more strict (no laptops, cellphones, or e-readers). Sometimes technology isn’t always the problem though: even in the classes where computers were not allowed, I sometimes found myself easily distracted unless the class was engaging and allowed some kind of discussion. With all that said, students in the classes I teach are told to put away computers or cellphones, unless we are using them for special projects. Great point that people need to get back to the basics: handwriting, spelling, and grammar are all just as important as learning how to use technology.

Excellent point, Jon. I would add (from a historical studies perspective) that with the web students can now access historical source documents and alternative viewpoints within seconds. This enables students to be a better judge of past and present events. They are no longer dependent solely on the teacher’s material and analysis. Thanks for the post, Nicole. It was very informative as usual. Have you used the iPad as a white board in your presentations?

Thanks for commenting! No, I have not used the iPad as a whiteboard, though I was just reading the other day about several apps that have been developed that will turn an iPad into a digital whiteboard. I’m going to look into this; it sounds like a great tool for one-on-one tutoring.

Thanks Jon! I finished my degree in law in 2001. I did use the internet for my studies, but it certainly wasn’t like it is now. I had to go on 2 train journeys to access the best law library around. It was almost a full day of a job because once there you might as well do a LOAD of research to make it worth your while. I’m guessing this could now be done at home in an hour or so. But it was good for the soul to visit this huge library and blow the dust of some old heavy tombs!

Thank you for this post, Nicole. As a homeschooler, I have found multiple educational uses for technology. When my children were young, they played educational games and one reluctant reader became engaged with e-books. Once they were in junior high, YouTube documentaries enhanced lessons. They’ve used the Internet for research, shared evidence with debate club, taken online courses to supplement our curriculum, and each child has a blog to express creativity. We have made movies using Final Cut Pro and learned photography with digital cameras not to mention learning how the computer works while troubleshooting. I agree that we need to master spelling, grammar, and handwriting, and nothing can beat holding a beautifully bound book in your hands, but my children are growing up in a time when technology is prevalent and being computer savvy will put them ahead of the curve.

Wow, it sounds like your classroom is quite tech savvy. Technology can even help children learn the fundamentals, like spelling and grammar — our free online grammar course, for example. But, yes, it’s important to encourage students to spend time away from the computer too! Use their hands to build things, go for long walks, play sports, keep an idea journal, etc.

Technology is changing fast, institutes should focus on the most obvious and compelling reason form implementing technology-namely, that students need strong technology skills to succeed in the world of work.

I graduated in the year 1996, I was a student of biological sciences, limited technological aid was accessible to me so I including my few mentors developed a distorted belief for a particular hypothesis, but later after a decade or so when I saw the 3D orientation with the help of graphic video of the same I was able to correct my belief. It says all…

BTW I have also initiated a discussion as a part of problogger’s group writing workshop…

You’re absolutely right, Rohit. Being skilled technologically is definitely a boost to anyone’s resume. Indeed, nowadays, it isn’t really about whether you are technologically skilled or not, but what you’re skilled in. Great point about how technology enables the expansion of information and knowledge.

No doubt about it technology has change the way we learn , interact and the way we do things. but like every thing in life there is positive and the negative side of it.

Now student can learn form anywhere and at any time, but i also think that has taken out some traditional class room interactions which to me is some thing of great experience worth it.

The internet is a faceless society, that can not be compared to the real world social interactions and this takes away many benefits of the real classroom social engagement.

Yes, though Skype and similar applications have definitely made great strides in imitating face to face communication, it’s still not the same as sitting around a table and sharing ideas or working on projects with a group of people.

I think technology has it’s place in everything but good old fashioned methods often work the best. Even now in training sessions we are told to write things down as we will remember them more if we write them down. As someone previously said grammar is badly affected in the online world. People just type away and don’t check what they have done and land up with lots of mistakes.

Quite true, Linda. The spelling and grammar errors might also have to do with common courtesy, don’t you think? The digital world lacks the feel of permanency that pen and paper have, so people dash things off without thinking about them carefully or proofreading. But they forget that spelling and grammar errors make it more difficult for other people to read & understand what they’ve written. These errors ultimately reflect back on their own character — they’re too lazy to check their work or don’t care about the person who is going to read it. Lessons like these are the ones parents and teachers need to instill in their children and students.

A very thought provoking question. I think it is inevitable that technology will change how we learn. If you think about it we have more knowledge at our fingertips now than ever before. The problem is that even with that power there is the need for real world learning and experiencing new things. We’ve had calculators for years but children must still memorize their times tables. We may have more than enough information on history, humanities and social studies on the web but children must still grasp the concepts behind them and how they fit in to their lives.

I also think that if someone is going to use technology that they should have a basic understanding of how it works. We don’t want a generation of kids who depending on something daily that they don’t even understand.

Thanks for commenting, Ethan. Yes, a well-rounded individual needs to have an understanding of the real world too. It’s like watching a film of a foreign country. You’ll learn a little about the country, but you’ll only have a partial knowledge. You aren’t able to fully understand and appreciate the country until you travel there and experience it for yourself.

Great point about how we also need to learn how technology works. Just wrote a post about that here.

Yes technology has definitely changed how we learn. For me it has opened up opportunities I otherwise would not be afforded at this stage in my life. I did all of the traditional classroom sitting while in college in the 90’s but now that I am a mom of two young children I do not have the option of sitting in a classroom (well, I guess I have the option…but it is not my priority at this time; my children are). I have done MANY online classes between carpooling, preparing dinners, bathing children, and so on. The online classes have been wonderful for me personally. Just because I don’t have time to adhere to a classroom schedule doesn’t mean I don’t want to continue learning.
I found your post through the problogger Discussion Post contest. I am participating too.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Tammy. I actually completed the first year and a half of my college degree through online classes — I loved having the ability to manage the coursework around my own schedule and watch the video lectures when I had the time to do so, rather than being restricted to a Professor’s schedule. Of course, I also enjoyed the college classes I took on campus, but I think that it is great that technology has now made education available to anyone with a computer and internet connection.

This is such a fascinating topic. I have a toddler and have been amazed at how naturally she took to the touch interface on our iDevices. She’s learning letters and numbers way ahead of her peers and I’m not drilling her or even encouraging her play with particular games over others. I’m also really curious how having access to so many photos and videos of her life will impact her memory. Often she’ll look through the camera roll on my phone with me and then want to go do some activity that she sees in a photo, even if it is something we haven’t done in weeks. She seems to have an amazing memory for things that happened very early in her life and I wonder if it is because she sees all these photos. There was a fascinating article in this month’s Atlantic on iPads and preschoolers. Did you see it?

I didn’t see that article. Thanks! I’m going to read it now. For anyone else who is interested, here’s the link. This is such a fascinating topic. It seems that technology really is rewiring our brains.

That’s quite interesting about how technology helps young children remember events that happened early in their childhood. I hadn’t thought of that, but I can definitely relate. My parents used camcorders to record all kinds of events during my childhood. They also took hundreds of pictures. Growing up, I used to love watching the “family videos” and flipping through all of the photo albums. I think it really helped to give me vivid memories of my childhood, even from as early as two years old.

Sounds like your daughter is quite bright for her age! 🙂

Great topic! (for the post and for the blog)

It’s hard to argue that technology hasn’t changed anything, because it obviously has.

I think the real problem is not technology or a lack thereof. The problem is trying to say that every teacher and every classroom should be the same. (You’re not saying that, but that’s the vibe some education professionals give off.)

Students need diversity. They need the teacher that’s all about technology. They need the teacher that’s all about going outside to plant flowers. And they need the teachers that are everywhere else on the spectrum.

The beauty of school to me was always experiencing the different teachers from class to class, semester to semester, and year to year. It gave me something new to think about, a new and different way to think about the world.

Love your perspective! Yes! I agree wholeheartedly. Schools need to have technology classes, but they also need music and art classes and everything else that makes for well-rounded individuals.

(Found you through Problogger) As a mother of 2 elementary aged kids going to public school, I think technology definitely changes the way kids learn, mostly for the better. Little boys, especially get very bored just using traditional methods. As long as they are closely monitored (to make sure they stay on track), technology can greatly enhance the educational experience.

My son learned multiplication tables easier by blasting problems in a space-themed learning game then he did by just saying them over and over orally. Likewise, my daughter learned a lot more about Sam Houston by making an interactive PowerPoint presentation then she would have by doing a traditional report. I think technology is making classrooms better and learning more fun.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Cathy. I have had a similar experience when teaching. It’s very difficult for young children especially to sit through an hour long lesson. They are much more engaged when the lesson is broken up: 20 minutes of individual impromptu writing, a short educational video, a quiz on the video, a short lesson, a group writing activity to practice what they’ve just learned, etc.

Love your point about how technology is making learning more fun. I remember taking a European history class and several of the students scored A’s on the exams because they had played computer games like Age of Empires and knew all of the history facts.

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