06/27/2014 11:43 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Poorly Used Technology: The Workbook?

Every medium develops some skills at the expense of others...

"Net" and other screen-based technologies have led us to "widespread and sophisticated development of visual-spatial skills... while weakening our capacity for deep processing that underpins mindful acquisition of knowledge, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination and reflection." -- UCLA review of 50 studies of effects of media on intelligence and learning (Greenfield, 2009)

We live in very exciting times. We are living in a time when future historians will look back in wonderment as to how we adapted to deal with massive increases in knowledge and technology. They will be looking back on us as we did the first person to have used the wheel or the pen. Technology is also fundamentally changing the way we educate our students. We hear things such as flipped classrooms and collaborative virtual environments. Technology is an amazing new tool for educators. But...

As with any tool, if used in an attempt to simply make things easier with no real regard to the benefits for our students, the tool becomes a crutch and drastically reduces its value. I see this all too much with today's technology in the classroom. For example, one of the big uses of computers is having the students work on programs such as Study Island, Moby Max and other stand-alone learning experiences. Although these technologies may have their place in education, in my opinion, this is not the best use of technology. Would you, as a teacher, hand a student a workbook and a text-book and tell them to learn? Stand-alone computer programs, with students being left alone to work on worksheet-type computer programs just sounds too eerily similar to the "disconnected" teaching of the past. Continually, we hear that four to five computers in a classroom, running a stand-alone program, makes for a great learning station. Does it? Are those four or five students getting the most out of that time spent on the computer?


Another misconception with the use of technology is if you use a computer, you automatically gain 21st century skills because, hey, you're using a computer. This is not true! 21st century skills such as creativity, collaboration, problem solving and innovation must be a planned learning experience that may or may not use a variety of technology to increase knowledge or skills. Look at the previous example; do we think that the student sitting one-on-one with a computer working through a stand-alone program is gaining any sort of 21st century skills? Technology is a great medium to help students be creative, collaborate with other students around the globe and solve problems far faster than the human mind. This is the wonderful part of communicative technology.

We need teachers to be creating real world, performance based experiences for our students that incorporate the latest technology while learning 21st century skills. Let's make certain our technology use embraces "deep processing that underpins mindful acquisition of knowledge, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination and reflection"