Tech and kids: Research shows the "promise and peril"

Education & Technology

Confusing Tech Conferences
All over the world, there have to be at least a dozen tech conferences taking place over the course of a day. At these conferences, various items can be discussed, from new technology, to console gaming, and to the affect that technology can have on various elements of life. In these, we find people saying, “technology is good for the future,” or “technology is helpful in this current job market.” No kidding. Unfortunately, these conferences are often short on how to bring technology into kids’ lives in meaningful ways.

However, at least one researcher, Paul Howard-Jones, has called out this disparity. At the research conference “Promise and Peril: The Impact of Technology on Children, Schools and Communities” late last month, Howard-Jones explained,

“Parents and teachers need solid evidence and research about the benefits and pitfalls of various technologies.”

Parents Argue Against Technology
Is he saying that technology should come nowhere near education? Many parents have been obviously concerned about kids’ excessive use of video games and computers; why, then, would they allow their students to bring a laptop or even perhaps a tablet to class? In a normal situation, I don’t think they would (or at least would have a hard time seeing the value). This research conference highlighted why parents and administrative powers in schools are worried about taking an agreeable stance on the movement to get every school updated with the latest technology for education.

Educational Technology: Good or Bad?
The point of the lecture by the keynote speaker, Dr. Michael Rich, was to make sure that criticizing the ever-growing amount of media in the classroom was put to rest. If the audience was able to leave with one thing, it would be that “Technology in classrooms isn’t necessarily good or bad – it’s how you use it that counts.” For instance, if a school has every child on a laptop, but those laptops are not monitored…couldn’t the children just be playing Angry Birds instead of doing what they’re supposed to?

There many examples like this. With every pro in technology, there is a con to using it in education. If you make a list, it could seemingly go on and on. One good thing about educational technology stands out above the rest, however. “A 2010 study in the United States showed children between eight and 18 years old spend more than 7-1/2 hours a day using media…” but this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, as discussed at the conference, video games are now being proven to “enhance some brain functions such as visual motor skills and the ability to make fast inferences.” By the end of the lectures, it was decided that technology might affect children poorly, but when it comes to education, technology almost always has the potential for good if used and implemented correctly with the right pedagogy to back it up.

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