Is Technology Hurting Student Progress?

collegereadingOne study shows that student math scores actually drop after getting a computer at home. What’s going on?

What happens when we give kids a tool to help them learn, but at the same time offers them huge potential for distraction? Does digital technology really help our kids learn, or are we putting them at a disadvantage when it comes time for concentrated attention?

These questions, according to this article in Paper Because, are the subject of much debate and scientific study. While some educators back ideas like One Laptop per Child or similar programs, the article notes that researchers are finding these tools actually impede learning in certain situations.

“Sometimes, distractions are a good thing. Like listening to your iPod during a dentist appointment or going for a run to get your mind off tomorrow’s big presentation,” states the writer of the piece. “But at other times, you need your brain to be focused on one thing, and one thing only if you’re going to do it right. One of those times is when you’re trying to learn something new.”

For young children just learning to read, digital distraction during story time can have a negative impact on comprehension and skill development, according to early education specialist Lisa Guernsey.

“Guernsey argues that the use of a tablet as opposed to a printed book not only changes the dynamic between the parent and child, it shifts the focus from reading to learning to how use the technology,” the article notes. “The conversation sounds more like ‘Push here to turn the page’ than ‘What do you think will happen next?’”

This may slow down the rate at which children improve their reading skills, as studies have shown that kids reading with a parent on a digital device aren’t getting as much interaction about the story as they do when reading a print book together.

Older students are affected as well, especially when connected to Wi-Fi. And interestingly, another study showed that not only is the connected student distracted, but so it the student sitting next to them.

Print, meanwhile, contains the focus to the page in a way that enhances reading comprehension and recall, critical elements in the learning process.

Digital devices have their place in education, certainly; as research tools they are hand-held miracles. But when it’s time to focus, print still matters for learning.