Let’s Get Technical

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Should schools be more skeptical about integrating technology into the classroom?

By Kara Conley, Current Staff

In 2017, when people think of school they no longer think of books, but computers.

Technology in the classroom is changing the way teachers must educate their students and the way students learn. Some students have evolved in their academics due to the increased technological use, but not everyone feels it is for the best. Many teachers and students at the West Bend High Schools acknowledge the value of technology, but are also aware of its downsides.

“Technology allows for differentiation in the classroom,” said Jacob Gitter, an East engineering teacher. “For example, in years past students could be directly taught a concept by the teacher, read about the concept in a textbook, and look at pictures of the concept. Now they can also watch a video about the concept as a class or individually on their own device.”

The greater use of technology within education has seemed to improve the lives of students as they continue to grow and develop.

The U.S. Department of Education found after a series of studies that “contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective, providing a rationale for the effort required to design and implement blended approaches.”

Many students enjoy the ease that comes with technology as schools shift to more online programs and away from the use of paper and textbooks.

“I think that the conversion to more online things through schools has allowed for more opportunities,” said Maranda Murphy, an East senior. “We aren’t tied down to paper and pen, but instead can use resources online that can further our learning. Canvas [a district online portal] has made life a lot easier in the aspect that anything and everything can easily be accessed through a few clicks.”

Technology does have many advantages when it comes to school work, and it is a great service to students in the high school as they are challenged with more rigorous studies.

“I definitely see the value in utilizing technology, and it can be extremely beneficial to students in regards to research, reviewing concepts, and finding other resources,” said Kristen Becker, a West English teacher.

Technology can also be helpful as it provides an alternative way for students to gather new information. There are various means by which a child can approach learning topics and technology seems to grant them a positive way of doing so.

“Technology has helped many students learn in different ways,” Gitter said. “This allows for some students who may not understand the concept as taught to everyone else, to grasp the concept.”

However, technology also has some negative affects observed by teachers who feel it sometimes prevents students from learning properly.

“I feel as though technology has, at times, become a substitute for both teaching and learning,” Becker said. “It’s far too easy for students to simply look up an answer, write it down, and forget about it.”

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Students use Chromebooks today in Dave Talma’s AP Government course. Photograph by Gabrielle Diaz, Current Staff.

In Gitter’s manufacturing class, students utilize technology daily, but he has witnessed many students still struggle to acquire the information necessary to truly learn what is being taught.

“Technology can be excessively distracting,” Gitter said. “Most students do not actively try to get themselves distracted, it just happens. Technology manufacturers and service providers do not typically make electronics which are exclusively meant for educational use.”

Many teachers feel technology takes too much time away from the curriculum as the implementation of technology takes more effort than the traditional way of teaching. They have also noticed a transformation in the way students behave in the classroom due to the extensive use of devices.

“I am not a fan of technology overload in the schools,” said Paul DeLain, a West science teacher. “We seem to spend a lot of energy, time and resources on the latest technology for the classroom while kids continue to disengage more and more with the classroom.”

“Technology can be used to engage students, but I think it can also cause students to have a fleeting attention span and to only be satisfied with immediate answers and/or gratification,” Becker said.

Those who are employed in the West Bend High Schools are not the only ones who realize that with this advancement towards more technology, schools across the nation have failed to consider all the effects caused by heightened technological use.

The New York Times reports that “schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.”

It may appear that with increased technology, students are better suited to learn than they ever have before, but studies prove that this is not always the case.

The U.S. Department of Education concluded that “despite what appears to be strong support for blended learning applications, the studies in this meta-analysis do not demonstrate that online learning is superior as a medium.”

It is also evident that technology cannot work for every subject that is taught. There are classes that are meant to maintain the classic form of education.

“Technology has, at times, become a substitute for both teaching and learning.”
– Kristen Becker, West High English teacher

“When teaching literature, I believe there is still something to be said about having a real, engaging class discussion—no bells and whistles are needed,” Becker said.

Not all students are glad to move towards more online activities and abandon the original style of learning. Although technology can invite a more accessible method of studying, it still displays some glitches.

“I find that more technology in the classroom can be useful for certain classes like biology when we do labs or math when we use the smartboard, but I also think that technology should be limited in other subjects, like English,” said Alice Lang, a West senior.

“Technology does make some things easier with school, but it can also make it really hard to focus, like when I have to read a computer screen instead of piece of paper for things like the Galileo tests,” said Hogan Johnson, a West senior. “That’s where the use of technology can make things more difficult.”

Gitter also says that the online programs that are being applied in schools are falling short of the techniques students will need for the real world.

“We are using smart phones and Google Docs, yet the work world around us is not,” Gitter said. “Employers expect students to use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. They also expect competency in using Windows. I believe the current generation is lacking in these skills as evidenced by my need to constantly teach how to ‘File, Save As.’ or how to create a folder and locate a file.”

Technology has encouraged more progress in the lives of students, but the manner in which it is being employed in schools has perhaps caused disparity between what is needed for the workforce and what is convenient to the student or teacher.

“Technology has helped students in learning other concepts, but has actually caused them to jump past the basic use of technology,” Gitter said. “This would be sort of like playing on the varsity basketball team when you haven’t even learned how to properly dribble the ball.”

(Top image: East senior Sarah Uhren studies on a computer in the East Library today. Photograph by Gabrielle Diaz, Current Staff.)

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