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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Is modern technology teaching our kids to be lazy?

Is modern technology teaching our kids to be lazy?

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62 Replies 2848 Views

I teach high school remediation. All of my students are juniors, and must pass the state test in March. The spelling and writing skills of many of my students are extremely below grade level. Some have rarely used a dictionary and don't know what guide words are. They have so much knowledge about the computer, and use spell check to correct mistakes. Hand them a cell phone, and they can text message all day long. Give them a calculator and they can figure out any problem, but hand them a pencil and paper and they go blank. I advocate for technology as a resource for learning, but it seems that this is the reason that so many students are unable to do things manually. I know that the basic skills should be mastered in elementary school, but my kids are juniors already and they haven't gotten there yet. Has anyone else experienced this? Any suggestions or comments are welcome.

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Julie Vigil's picture

Technology is good in moderation just like anything else. The use of a dictionary is a dying art, but is that a bad thing? I'm not convinced. Technology is causing our society to change including the way we learn and I think that is OK.

Francine's picture
Francine
Mathematics Teacher

I believe modern technology enhances rather than impedes education. True, when in elementary school it is very important to learn how to read, write, and complete an arithmetic problem without the use of technology. These are basic skills which need to be learned by all. This is a very social world we live in. We need to learn how to communicate with others around us - face to face and in written communication as well. Before becoming a teacher, I worked in another field where files were kept on clients and notes were made on those files - most, if not all, handwritten. Proper spelling and grammar usage is highly important out in the "real world". There will be many times when our children will need to express themselves in writing - handwriting - and that skill needs to be learned in elementary school. As students move on in their educational careers, there comes a time when technology can and should be used to enhance learning - word processing programs so students can concentrate on the message they are trying to convey, graphing calculators to help students make mathematical connections between algebraic equations and real world graphs and charts, the internet to research a topic of interest or to make wiser consumer decisions, etc. The use of such technologies is not a sign of laziness, rather technology can be thought of as a tool one uses to help in the quest for gathering and analyzing information. Technology is here to stay - it's the present and the future. We need to make sure our nation's children keep up with the rest of the world.

Nannette Bullard's picture

I am a kindergarten teacher and my students enjoy the use of technology. I believe at this age, technology is not making them lazy due to the limited time of usage in the class. However, for the older students, it could be a concern when it comes to spelling and writing. Technology is a big part of our lives, so our job is to incorporate the utilization of those skills in a positive and productive way.

Nannette Bullard's picture

I am a kindergarten teacher and my students enjoy the use of technology. I believe at this age, technology is not making them lazy due to the limited time of usage in the class. However, for the older students, it could be a concern when it comes to spelling and writing. Technology is a big part of our lives, so our job is to incorporate the utilization of those skills in a positive and productive way.

Dawn's picture

"rather technology can be thought of as a tool one uses". (Francine, 12-1-09)Excellent observation.
Definition of technology is the use of tools. Tools are anything that is altered from it's natural state for a purpose, a use. (pointed stick, knife, flashlight, computer...)
Garden implements, guns, kitchen utensils, and all our other tools can be very versatile things (see Macgyver), helpful (indoor plumbing)or not so helpful (indoor plumbing + lost toys).
It's not a matter of if technology is helpful, it is a matter of if we will ever develop enough self discipline as a species/culture/profession to minimize the negative effects (such as mental dependence causing loss of skills) and maximize the positive (skill building with added dimensions and modes of learning and teaching).

Dawn's picture

I disagree with Linda. Children and teens are not great at socializing and never have been. Developmentally, they are not quite equipped for it, yet. Even high school students don't do well compared to most adults in simply recognizing the emotion in a facial expression. It may be that texting and phones are actually helping to build communication skills. These modes of communication have fewer variables than those with facial expression and body language, so fewer 'choices' to pick from when deciphering meaning in someone's message. Teens also spend a great deal more time communicating, and with a greater number of people, then in previous generations. There is no denying that skills increase if good practice happens. As educators, we can teach communication skills to support practice of good habits. I doubt there is a more valuable thing we can do for our students, and the future of society, regardless of the subject we teach. (no, I am not a language arts teacher, I teach Tech Ed- sometimes referred to as 'shop')

Anna Redding's picture
Anna Redding
High School Math Teacher from Phoenix, Oregon

I think that technology can be benefical to students but being a math teacher I do expect my students to write out all their work. I say to my students often that I can not see what buttons they pushed on their calculator. Students who struggle want my assistance but it is difficult to help them see their mistakes if there is no work shown. I use to be an advocate against using calculators in the lower level classes. Several years ago, I was over-ruled by my administartion that if the students don't know basic math by high school, they are not going to learn it. My son is in 5th grade and his teacher says that they can use a calculator sometimes for basic math but I as a parent tell him he has to do it all out the long way. Students need to understand the process and not just be able to push buttons on a calculator or find the answer in the computer. It seems like the students brains are not having to learn to [roblem solve as I did in school. Maybe students are learning how to problem solve differently.

(Sorry for the length.)

Anna Redding's picture
Anna Redding
High School Math Teacher from Phoenix, Oregon

I think that technology can be benefical to students but being a math teacher I do expect my students to write out all their work. I say to my students often that I can not see what buttons they pushed on their calculator. Students who struggle want my assistance but it is difficult to help them see their mistakes if there is no work shown. I use to be an advocate against using calculators in the lower level classes. Several years ago, I was over-ruled by my administartion that if the students don't know basic math by high school, they are not going to learn it. My son is in 5th grade and his teacher says that they can use a calculator sometimes for basic math but I as a parent tell him he has to do it all out the long way. Students need to understand the process and not just be able to push buttons on a calculator or find the answer in the computer. It seems like the students brains are not having to learn to [roblem solve as I did in school. Maybe students are learning how to problem solve differently.

(Sorry for the length.)

David Devine's picture

I am a first grade teacher and, although I utilize technology in my classroom at every chance I get, I feel students need to find a happy medium between technology and performing a task "manually". I don't run into a problem with this in first grade, but as early as third grade in my school, students start to heavily rely on technology.

My sister just graduated high school, and last year was writing essays for college. She asked me to look over her writing and I was so shocked at the errors, both with spelling and grammar. She is someone who is always instant messaging and texting her friends, and it seems they have a language of their own. Although it's great that they can find information instantly, or text and communicate with friends from all over the world, what are they losing? One thing is the ability to articulate and communicate clearly. Like Carrie said, it is about finding a balance. No matter how advanced technology gets, if the student using technology cannot spell or write a grammatically correct sentence, then we, as teachers, have failed that student. How do we help our students find that balance? I am interested in some of your ideas.

David

Terri Brazelton's picture

I think in a way that technology is making our students lazy. I found that any time I am working with students and math, they always want to use a calculator. A lot of them do not know how to work math problems out using pencil and paper. I, myself, would rather use pencil and paper. I wonder sometimes do the students get it or are they just keying in what they see.

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