More School, but No More Books by Nicole Askin

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My little sister started Grade 7 this year. Looking at her school supply list, I was struck by how different it was from my own at that age. Binders? Highlighters? Coloured pencils? None of the above. Instead, in addition to the USB stick that has been standard for a few years, she was also asked to bring a tablet computer.

She’s not the only one with a more technological approach to learning – Grade 3 students in Richmond Hill spent last spring learning social studies by playing SimCity on classroom iPads. High schools across the country have begun mandating laptops for students. “Smart boards” have proliferated in classrooms at all levels. One Calgary-based school has even created classroom Twitter feeds – for kindergarten. And at that age I thought it was awesome that we had a class goldfish!

The debate over classroom technology can go both ways. On the one hand, technology can connect students to the world, facilitate communication for those with certain disabilities, and provide more effective one-on-one attention than a teacher might be able to in a busy classroom. On the other hand, it opens up a whole new avenue of potential distraction for students – which is why some university profs have gone so far as to ban laptops from their classrooms. The equipment is also fragile and, more importantly, expensive, raising concerns about students potentially becoming targets for theft, and even about losing access to education because they can’t afford the price of entry to so-called “public” school.

What do you have to say about this issue?

2 thoughts on “More School, but No More Books by Nicole Askin

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  1. Technology is definitely becoming more prevalent in classrooms.As with many others we just need to know how to use it effectively. Sure it can be distracting, but it can also be, in certain cases, more effective than the traditional pen-and-paper learning

  2. I both agree and disagree with the use of technology in public school… There are lots of success stories about incorporating innovative technology in the classroom, and if nothing else, you probably have to admit it’s more environmentally friendly than going through huge stacks of paper throughout the year. And although I was never a very tech-savvy student, maybe using stuff like Twitter in class is a good way for educators to connect with the stereotypical “modern youth.” But I have to admit using Twitter in kindergarten has me a bit concerned – with increasing worries about the ever-expanding role technology is playing in children’s lives, do we really want to introduce it to the classroom at young ages? And aside from technological-psychological issues, in my experience, technology in schools always breaks down just when you DON’T want it to… More than once, lessons with smart boards, graphing calculators, and computer work-alongs have stalled because of technological difficulties (not counting the time it takes to explain how to use the technology…), which cuts significantly into learning time, besides disrupting the flow of the lesson. There’s also some evidence to suggest that kids internalize information better based on reading from paper sources than using computers. So, technology in classrooms? My view is, if you want to show videos or online animations, great. If it’s needed to make a point, then use it. But don’t incorporate technology in the classroom just for the sake of “progress” and becoming “up-to-speed.” Don’t make kids focus too much on learning how to use the technology, when they could be learning course subject matter. Don’t exclude kids whose parents can’t afford the required technology. Sometimes, simpler can be better.

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