Digital Technology (And Covid 19) Is Ushering In A New Age Of Learning. But We Need To Be Aware Of The Pitfalls…

Child development

Our burgeoning reliance on the Internet and Internet-enabled devices is evident, more so in the on-going pandemic. It is only obvious, that technology will also play an increasing role in the delivery of education.

However, parents need to understand something; this is not without repercussions.

 

Impaired Learning Due To Shallower Processing

According to a research conducted by Pam Mueller (Princeton University) and Daniel Oppenheimer (University of California, Los Angeles)[i],students who opted for the simple pen and paper method had stronger conceptual understanding and could relate and apply the material better than the ones who used a laptop or tablet.

 

Taking notes by hand requires different cognitive processing than that requires by taking notes on a laptop, leading to different levels of learning. Those typing do not devote much thought to the content and are rather focused on the process of typing quickly & accurately, while the traditional pen-and-paper approach is engaging enough to make students grasp and understand the content, while reproducing the same on paper. It was seen that ‘laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.

 

Students have become dependent on the in-built dictionary of their gadgets to such an extent, that spelling and grammatical errors have become common — rather below average.

 

Poor Attention Span & Concentration Levels

In a study, carried out by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, findings showed a clear link between less time spent on the phone and stronger cognitive skills and greater willingness to think in an analytical way. Googling information we don’t know is replacing natural curiosity, making us less able to think for ourselves - a trend that will only get worse in the future.

 

“Decades of research has revealed that humans are eager to avoid expending effort when problem-solving and it seems likely that people will increasingly use their smartphones as an extended mind,” said Nathaniel Barr, co-lead author of the paper, and a postdoctoral researcher at Waterloo. We all use Google because it makes life easy and also provides us information avenues otherwise not available. But should we be doing this in school itself?

 

In addition, students get distracted, resulting in lower levels of engagement and learning. Internet surfing, online social networking, games, music, etc. could hamper concentration and get less work done as students begin multi-tasking, and eventually pay no attention to learning.

 

Low Levels Of Perseverance

With the world’s information available at the touch of a screen and the click of a button, many students take the easy way out with projects and assignments. Lethargy drives students to turn to the Internet for assistance of any kind — unless the project is a subjective one, which requires individual thought and perspective. Even then, the temptation to simply ‘pickup’ opinions over the Internet is high. Hands-on work — such as a visit to the library could prove to be a cumbersome task for students accustomed to doing things with the help of the Internet. Rather than reading from a book, digging out facts and coming to their own conclusions, students are now used to typing in their queries, and being spoon-fed with over a thousand results displayed on their screens in the matter of a few seconds.

 

The Need For Instant Gratification

An unintended effect of using technology has been creation of an instant gratification generation - who no longer see the point of waiting for anything. Opportunities to learn the benefits of delayed gratification are dwindling as technological advances increase exponentially.

 

This notion of not wanting to wait for a particular outcome has crossed over to our education system as well. I believe that the results of Walter Mischel's famous "Stanford marshmallow experiment"[ii]still hold. Subsequent studies documented the crucial importance of delayed short-term pleasure in order to meet longer term goals. Research showed that kids who are better able to delay gratification not only achieve better test scores, but are also more likely to succeed in school and their careers.

 

In theory, technology is surely a good aid in educational institutions. However, somewhere down the line, we have begun to miss the forest for the trees. Our education systems should now require teaching kids how to control digital technologies, and to not be controlled by them. With gadgets taking over classrooms, lesser opportunities are given to students: to analyze, form opinions, and most importantly — think.

 

About the Author: Mrs. Mili Shah (P. G. Diploma in School Counselling and Guidance, Diploma in Montessori Education) is a school counsellor and educational therapist at the Path Remedial Centre, Mumbai. Formerly at the Villa Theresa High School, Mumbai and the New Era School, Mumbai, Mrs. Shah has extensive experience of over 8years in the field of education and school counselling. In case of any queries regarding the article, please feel free to reach out to her atmaahi.reya@gmail.com

 [i] The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard -Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking

Pam A. Mueller & Daniel M. Oppenheimer (2014)

[ii] The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel