Technology Posing a Positive Impact on Students’ Learning Abilities
It’s strange how so many grumble about how far schools have moved away from the Little Red Schoolhouse, where the Three Rs were taught. Indeed, those who decry how complicated modern education has gotten advocate for a return to those supposedly simpler days, when reading, writing and arithmetic were all anyone learned at school.
We have to wonder if they know that an actual Little Red Schoolhouse, located in New York City, was one of the country’s first facilities to promote progressive education strategies and learning initiatives.
Nevertheless, the myth of the one-room schoolhouse endures, despite today’s world being hyper-connected and laden with technology that presumably makes everything easier. Some may argue that there’s not enough of such technology in schools today but that’s a discussion for another time. Today, let’s talk about technology’s positive impacts on students’ abilities to learn.
The first and most obvious benefit technology has on student learning is the wealth of information available, literally at their fingertips. Or, if they prefer, they may simply ask their device a question and receive top answers, algorithmically ranked from most to least popular and/or useful.
We’ll focus on report writing, as an example. In any subject, when writing a report, students must have information about the topic. Be it required reading or chemistry, maths or geography, launching a search for information yields myriads of results that the student only needs a keyword search to find what they’re looking for.
Compare those instantaneous results with hours of library searches and reading to find the desired information, a contrast that presents another valuable aspect of technology in learning. Often, printed materials do not contain the most up-to-date information. Conversely, any entity with a presence online goes to great lengths to present the latest facts. Thus, students may be assured that their research will turn up current knowledge which they could then correlate with archived documents if their assignment so requires.
This greater access to resources, not just text but also video, images, graphs and charts makes for a more well-rounded learning experience.
There’s been substantial debate over learning styles, visual versus kinesthetic learners, and so on. Regardless of any preferences or ideas on the topic, most everyone can agree that drawing from a variety of resources allows for a broader perspective of the subject matter. So, if students have difficulty visualizing a concept they grapple with, exposure to text as well as video might help them fully understand it.
Setting the questionable premise of learning styles aside, we can advance the idea that technology levels the learning field.
Historically, other-abled students have struggled with the standard, one-size-fits-all pedagogy. Students learning with dyslexia or its cousins, dyscalculia and dysgraphia had been typically left out of mainstream learning. Or, if students with such learning difficulties are mainstreamed, they’re regularly shunted off to ‘special ed’ classes where they may receive help targeted to their needs.
With the variety of technology available to students with such conditions, they no longer have to labor under classmates’ cruelty or the humiliation of being different. Learning software tailored to their condition is available to them right where they sit, among their peers.
Technology doesn’t make learning more accessible only for students with the aforementioned learning difficulties. Today, any student with any type of neurological condition (ADHD, autism), intellectual disability or physical condition, from blindness to cerebral palsy, may take an active part in their education.
Other-abled or not, giving students buy-in to their education makes learning more engaging.
From the time that children become conscious of the world around them, they are learners. All of the toddler play and the joy of discovery goes with them to school but, inevitably, wears off as students are expected to sit quietly, for ever-longer periods, and absorb knowledge.
We can hardly blame traditional pedagogy for stifling students’ natural inclination to forge their path into awareness. After all, learning has always been billed as serious business, and it still is. But nothing says we can’t give students more latitude in how they learn new things, provided they have the proper guidance.
Modern educational theory is taking steps away from teacher-led instruction by giving students license to learn as they see fit, using appropriate channels. Technology provides those means and, best of all, students relish the opportunity to discover and learn on their own.
That may have something to do with today’s students feeling more comfortable using technology. They’ve never known a disconnected world; indeed, technology likely drives most of their interactions in and out of school. Thus, it makes good sense that educators would want to connect with their students where they feel most at home.
Such a shift came to pass during the worst of the pandemic times.
With classrooms all over the world shut down, schools and teachers scrambled to connect with students online. Fortunately, many teachers who moonlight as tutors often give lessons online so they had no trouble adapting to that environment. The challenge was teaching in large groups rather than giving lessons one-to-one.
Were it not for schools’ hasty transition to remote learning, students would have experienced a greater sense of disconnection from their peers and the school routine. And, despite marked learning loss, they would have fallen even farther behind than they have.
That demonstrates perhaps the most positive impact that technology has had on learning.