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Naveen Albert

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21st Century Learning — NO Technology In The Classroom

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Scientific American released an article about a month ago that reported students are supposedly better off without technology in the classroom.

Wait, what? Isn't technology the whole point of "21st Century Learning"?

Yes, and that's the point.

21st Century Learning is a movement being pushed by the technology and wireless industries in order to increase bulk purchases from schools and educational institutes. While they usually floor superintendents when they boast of "increased workforce preparation" and "real-world applications", these phrases are just buzzwords thrown around to make them look like they know what they're talking about. The reality is that technology is drastically overused in the classroom and has little, if any, role in it.

Now, why is that? Well, if you read the article published by Scientific American, research by scientists at Michigan State University shows that laptops do not enhance classroom learning. (And if laptops don't enhance classroom learning, you better believe that tablets and other mobile devices DEFINITELY do NOT enhance classroom learning.

The reasons are varying and many. Yes, technology poses distractions. Yes, you remember things better when you write longhand. Yes, if your device is wireless, it's also beaming carcinogenic radiation at you which is especially problematic for students with developing brains who are trying to learn. But there's a bigger reason lurking:

Technology is overused, simply because it is used where it is inappropriate to do so. For example, having students "annotate" articles on their computer, or worse, tablet, makes little sense. Students will be much more engaged with the article if they have a hard copy and can write and highlight all over it, rather than focusing 80% of their attention on the quirkiness of the technology being used. Particularly with mobile devices, which are not designed for education at all, students spend most of their time getting frustrated at the shortcomings of technology rather than doing the assignment.

No doubts, there are use-cases for technology. Doing research on the World Wide Web, creating a PowerPoint presentation, or typing their final revisions of an essay all come to mind. But when technology is used to accomplish virtually all classroom tasks, even if they are better suited for doing without technology, technology becomes more of an education inhibitor than a stimulus.

There you go, "21st Century Learning" debunked in a few short paragraphs. Of course, there's a lot more to the store. Take for instance, Common Core Curriculum. What's wrong with that, you ask? Well consider that Common Core has dropped cursive writing from their list of cirriculum and has replaced it was being able to adequately use technology. Being able to use a mouse and keyboard are now important than being able to write, says Common Core. Can you see why today's educational programs are so broken and lacking?

Needless to say, many schools will still continue to teach cursive writing, even if it's not mandatory any longer. But you can quickly see where this has gone and where it is heading. Don't get me wrong, technology can be used for great things. Just not in the classroom. For people who say students need to learn how to use technology, hear this: even in technology is not used in schools at all, kids will become pretty adept at using it pretty quickly regardless. In fact, even schools that have 1:1 policies usually don't teach students how to use technology. Sure, kids know how to take pictures of their ears and noses, but do they know how to check the print queue of a printer, save Word documents to a file share, or change their default printer? Most schools are not teaching these technology "basics", which is a problem for any school that chooses to deploy technology.

So really, there are two problems. Technology is being used all the time when it really shouldn't be, and kids are not even learning how to use this technology correctly. Hey, erasers are great but most of the time, pencils are better. Imagine if schools required all students to use erasers instead of pencils and used erasers shaped like spoons. Does anyone see a problem?

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