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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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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B L Hall S's picture
B L Hall S
High School Career Technical Education & Language Arts - Albuquerque

Yes. Computer technology -like the automobile and telephone - may reduce or alter our levels of physical output. Technology IS and has changed the literacy form and process of current times.

Mrs. T's picture
Mrs. T
High School Biology Teacher

I do not see a problem with using technology in the classroom. Students are changing. The way they are learning is changing. We need to change the way we teach in order to get through to our students. We have to be able to "let go" of the old ways and adapt our teaching styles to the twenty first century. If computer games and smart phones are what interest the students, we need to figure out ways to incorporate those into our lessons to grab hold of students' interests. The students will be engaged and perhaps learn even more in the process. We as teachers need to get rid of the fear associated with "technology". We need to learn this stuff, so we can better utilize it in the classroom. I don't think technology is making students lazy. I think technology is making a different kind of student. We (the teachers) need to change in order to be as effective teachers as possible. Technology is not going away. It is only going to become more predominant.

Michelle's picture

Technology is great, if used properly. I wouldn't say that today's students are lazy. In fact, I think it's quite the opposite. I think they are anxious to get the job done and know that technology will make the process much faster. Lazy would imply that they are inclined to do nothing, or inclined to move very slowly. However, if you see them pushing buttons immediately after an assignment is given, then they are just looking for a way to get it done fast. What I think the biggest concern should be is not the technology itself, but whether the students understand the process before attempting to use the technology. Even the best computer with all the latest bells and whistles can give the wrong answer if it is programmed incorrectly. Gadgets can only do what you tell them to do. If you tell them the wrong process, well, get the picture. It must be stressed to today's students that understanding process comes first. As long as they understand the process first, I see no reason why they shouldn't use technology to save some time.

Jim Snyder's picture
Jim Snyder
Math Coach and Interventionist

I work in an environment the consistently generates successful college bound students and high test sCores. I am a nomad teacher with no set classroom or built-in technology. Overhead projectorS (not ELMOs) and dry erase boards are. The standard tools. We are in a block schedule with a directive of no more than twenty minutes of dIdactic instruction. Students are not lazy but instead scareD. They operate with a conceptIon that there is no room for error. No room for failure it leads to a "pAralysis" in participating. Our school is K-we and I attribute the succesS of these students to the consistency in the environment and connectedness of the instruction. I am pursuing licensure and tenure through alternative license and this environment provides a supportive environmEnt in devEloping professionally. Its not laziness but paralysis and it is up to educators to encourage (not punish) risk taking in thought and use of new technology. (Pardon some errors this was typed on a blackberry while I am sitting out A tornado warning)

Melissa Gates's picture

A fellow teacher had this experience yesterday: he wanted his students (Civics class) to access information about former presidents and their main policies. Because all of our computer labs are being used for state testing, he decided to bring one of our library's entire sets of encyclopedias to his class. The students began the project with incredulity at having to use books. Then, more than 50% of the students (and these are sophomores) asked him if they looked up the president by his first name or his last name. I do see the value of technology, but, is it not also possible, they technology is depleting a valuable resource in our students - common sense?

Tony Linzmeier's picture

Being a technology support person (and looking from the outside in - sort of), I feel the real issue is not whether kids are becoming lazy because of technology it is whether kids are allowed to become lazy. Technology has nothing to do with it. I coined a phrase that is constantly used by my peers, which is "take the technology out of it". Students should be taught the processes of what they do on the computer before they get to the age of using computers as a main source of interaction. (As you noted)

Spelling and grammar/writing problems should be addressed at a younger age where computers are not a part of the daily activities (i.e. k-4). It is not the fault of technology that kids cannot do things "manually" as you stated. It is the fault of the system that passed these kids on before they have mastered these skills. It is not the fault of technology that a kid cannot read or write.

That being said, your situation (remediation at the HS level) has to deal with what was done (or not done) in the past and try to improve it. If spelling and writing (grammar) are an issue, then "take the technology out of it". If kids have to manually write by hand with pen/pencil and paper to help them get the skills they should have gotten years ago, than so be it. I realize that this is an over simplified statement and may not be possible but I believe it answers your question. It is not meant to be a personal critique on any person but rather a statement about the system.

Allison Goedde's picture

Laziness does come from leniency on the part of educational leaders in the classroom as well as at home. If we accept communication in the form of short text and acronyms, then that is what will receive. Society has formed this new communication which is inconsistent with what needs to happen in education and that is to prepare learners to acquire information for the purpose of applying, analyzing, synthesizing in a way that is productive for making decisions. Technology is a tool like anything else. It expedites information like never before but is not the only source of information. We have formed a whole generation of kids who do not know how to be productive with information, rather they are consumers. Knowledge has shifted from mindful recall to who can find it the fastest online. I ask myself if it is productive to have hand-written work from anyone who is proficient with typing and constructing information in electronic format? Just like most things, there is a time and place for penmanship, unfortunately, hand-written book reports is no longer the best place for articulating ideas and information consumed from the information highway.

Heather's picture

Like the teacher who posted the initial comment about having juniors in a remediation class, I too have a class of juniors and seniors who I am expected to prepare to re-take our state's assessment test for sophomore English. My students also are very fluent users of cell phones and computers. They definitely know how to use spell check. As an example of how important I think it is that students learn the basics, when students spell something wrong on the computer they will go to the spell checker and just pick the first word on the suggestions list without regards to whether or not that is the word they actually need. They do this out of laziness, and also because they don't know what word they really need. For example, if they spell the word "wether" they might mean the word "whether" but might choose "weather" on the list because they don't really know what the difference is between the two words. On the state assessment test though, they have to hand write their essays, and obviously need to know the difference between "whether" and "weather." I also have students incorrectly capitalizing letters like "I" because they don't have to capitalize correctly in their text messages. The students have learned a shortened, condensed version of writing because of technology and technology also enables them to not have to know the correct way of writing things. It's so frustrating as a teacher who is expected to prepare these juniors and seniors (who should already know these basics) to pass this mandated test.

K. Clark's picture
K. Clark
Teacher to a child with physical challenges and gifted intelligence.

In a new world powered by multimedia, it would be unethical not to teach students how to use it, and how to use it responsibly. That being said, the old school ways have a larger part still in the futures of these students. Well read, well cultured professionals are not born that way. The schools must take the responsibility to make sure the children are educated in a thorough and well rounded manner. Many students, unfortunately, do not have access outside of schools to dictionaries, thesaurus' or encyclopedias. Many schools allow calculators at a very young age when they are not yet needed. This only takes up valuable time they could use toward working problems out on paper and learning to do them in their head.
I have noticed a horrible lack of all areas of Language Arts in high school and college students. I have heard discussions of expelling handwriting practice altogether! How frightening the future looks if these ways are given up.
Today, we want every thing fast, instant, now! No time to do math problems, to write papers, look up an answer or go to a library. It really is ridiculous. Technology has made us all lazy. There are many neighborhoods where the streets and playgrounds are bare. Where are the children? They are not outside getting fresh air and the opportunity to explore.
I am an advocate of multimedia tools as well. But I refuse to let my child let electronics think FOR him all of the time. When will he ever learn to take his time, think for himself and solve problems in his own unique way? It is no wonder that childhood flies by so fast these days and the children are missing it as it goes.

Jim Snyder's picture
Jim Snyder
Math Coach and Interventionist

In the seven year old realm of RTI, there are three things that prevent 75% to 85% or the general education population from succeeding in the classroom.
Low Effort
Low Quality Instruction
Learning Disability

75% to 85% of my students entering 9th grade Algebra 1 (entry level math for high school) lack the following skills:
- lack of fluency in technical reading to orally present and decode a Math Word problem
- lack math facts necessary to identify number patterns (addition, multiplication, even/odd) necessary to move into higher level math and mental problem solving
- dependency on calculators to perform all math calculations
Prior to entering the ninth grade regular assessments are required for prerequisite skills and screenings for skills gaps. Technical reading below grade level and prerequisite math skills are not assessed/reported.

Our push to integrate technology without assessment of downstream impact is creating a new category of "learning disability".

Students can exert effort where skills are not present and recognized as prerequisite
Ineffective teaching in upstream classes is not present but is not assessed against prerequisites

So all that is left "according to the definition" is learning disabled.

If we are moving to a "tech based education" platform; drive the technology to develop these prerequisite skills.

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