The significance of technology in the classroom
Have you noticed how education is different today than when you were in school? When I was finishing high school, the internet was just becoming common. We used dial-up to access the internet and checked our email on Netscape. There was no Amazon and no Google. Even when I was finishing college, I was just starting to use the internet for research. Technology and education have changed in many ways in the last 20 years.
Today, our children cannot imagine a day without an internet connection, a tablet computer or iPod in hand. Technology has improved (it’s definitely more entertaining). The many changes in technology have not only changed education but also what and how our children learn.
Schools that do not have a computer or multiple computers in every classroom are considered behind the times. Some consider a benchmark for the “best” schools to be those that have the best technology such as iPads for every student.
Changes and advances in technology will continue to be a part of our lives and our children’s lives. Education should include teaching children about technology and how to use technology, but we should not mistake being well versed in technology as being well educated.
Technology should not change these areas of education
Technology should not change our expectations about memorization
Technology has changed the way we remember data. For example, before smart phones we would memorize all our friends phone numbers. After smart phones, we push a button and speak to our phone to dial numbers. Ten years ago, I knew many phone numbers that I could dial with my fingers, but today I don’t even know my sister’s phone number without my smart phone in hand to dial it for me.
With technology, we have the expectation that we can just do a Google search for the answer and, therefore we don’t need to memorize it. Consider my example above, simple data such as phone numbers were commonly memorized prior to cell phones and smart phones.
As technology has advanced, education has placed less emphasis on memorization of facts. Memorization is challenging and it’s not very exciting; however, those children who do memorize basic educational facts as children will have life long benefits of this knowledge. They will know their math facts, they will know the US states and capitals (some basic geography), they will know the US Presidents and basic history. Knowing the timeline of history will help you place new information into historical context.
Technology should not replace traditional teaching methods
Apps on phones and tablets can be helpful for spell check, weather updates, but I have not found them to be great education tools. In the beginning, I thought education apps would be a great way for my children to learn their times tables (digital flash cards anyone?), phonics sounds, parts of speech and so much more. There’s an app for everything! What I have found is that my children don’t want to use the apps to learn, they just want to play and be entertained.
Handwriting and cursive writing skills should not be replaced with keyboarding-only. Handwriting and cursive writing are different skills than keyboarding and activate different parts of the brain. At times, we always need to be able to write our thoughts on paper. Children should continue to be taught these important and valuable skills.
Technology should not replace traditional reading methods
My oldest child had difficulty learning to read. No specific diagnosis or reason for the challenges, but he needed more time than other children his age to develop the ability to read. While he was trying to learn to read, the teachers at his school frequently encouraged him to use computer programs to practice reading. The computer programs would usually read the story out loud him which did not require him to read, he could just let the computer read it.
Would it have been better if he had read a hardback book at his desk and struggled with the challenging words? Could he have learned to read sooner if the computer did not do all the work for him? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I don’t think the computer helped and it may have delayed the learning process.
Technology has a place in education.
In education, some skills and practices are timeless such as reading, writing effectively, strong math foundations (with memorized facts), history including an understanding of America and her greatness as a country.
Every child should also learn basic technology skills such as keyboarding, computer programs including word processing like Word and spreadsheets such as Excel. In later years, basics of visual design in PowerPoint. None of these technology skills should replace traditional skills. Our knowledge and ability to advance technology comes from the traditional skills learned in education.
If you are interested in more reading on education and the skills every child should learn, I recommend the following books for an overview. Both books are written by and for homeschoolers, but even if you don’t homeschool (I don’t homeschool my children) you will find great information about education:
- The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education
- The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition)
What education books have you found helpful for your children?
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