Though we generally see progress as a good thing, there are definite disadvantages of technology in the classroom. From distraction to reducing face time, EdTech isn’t a magic bullet for every situation. With some awareness, however, most disadvantages can be overcome, like some of the surprisingly old-school thinking that helps with tech disparity.
So read on for some disadvantages of technology in the classroom (and potential solutions).
From apps and e-textbooks to organizational platforms and “gamification,” there’s no shortage of technology in the classroom. But, while EdTech tools can make lessons more engaging and useful for students raised on technology, they can equally challenge teachers and lead to suboptimal outcomes for students. How can teachers get the most out of technology without sacrificing efficiency or engagement?
Here are 5 disadvantages of technology in the classroom and how to get past them for your students.
Smartphones have a bad reputation in classrooms and there have been strong cases for banning them in schools. Research suggests that during class time, when smartphones 42% of the time that students spent on their smartphones in the classroom, it was to text, tweet, or otherwise engage in social media rather than the lesson.
However, bans on devices such as smartphones are unlikely to work as students will inevitably get around them. Also, such bans would be resented by students, who consider the use of technology to be a matter of personal autonomy that should only be regulated when it distracts other students. While teachers can help students learn better self-control methods to help them to regulate their own use of devices, research shows that better lesson plans that promote student engagement have less off-task use of technology.
Therefore, the onus is on instructors to create engaging, inspiring, and stimulating lesson plans that incorporate technology. For example, smartphones can access educational apps that promote learning as well as time management.
Many teachers incorporate digital platforms into lesson plans and find that using social media can actually keep students engaged and encourage classroom participation. Some teachers even create twitter hashtags to encourage comments.
Technology can be used to supplement lesson plans with digital materials, including video, news stories, online discussions, and to encourage participation. Get creative!
Requires Management and Training
The rise of EdTech means that being effective in the classroom requires that teachers are effective on the screen and tech platform. Studies show that three-quarters of teachers say the internet and other digital tools have added new demands to their lives and have dramatically increased the range of content and skills about which they must be knowledgeable, with nearly half saying it has increased their workload.
New tech in the classroom also means needing IT professionals to help set it up, maintain it, and support teachers and students in its use. Clear and transparent communications among administration, faculty, and tech vendors that clarify how adopting a particular device, platform, or program will benefit students and teacher alike, can greatly enhance the use of technology in the classroom, to remove the suspicion that such technology is just “bells and whistles” with little actual value. Teachers also need access to training.
Moreover, institutions can help maximize their technical support staff by finding a less resource-intensive solution. Read 10 Reasons Education IT Administrators Love Interactive Touch Screen Displays.
Leads to Tech Disparity
Tech disparity refers to how much access students have to the necessary devices. The differences in access can be seen between school districts, with more affluent districts having greater resources, but it can also refer to differences among students in the same school, where students from wealthier families having greater access. A recent survey indicates that while 84 percent of American teens have a smartphone, the other 16 percent don’t. Reaching out to that 16 percent is the goal.
Tech disparity also refers to school policymaking and tech management. For example, the above survey also points out that while three-quarters of teachers working in wealthier districts felt that their schools provided adequate training, only half of the teachers in low-income areas agreed. Around 40 percent of teachers in economically disadvantaged areas saw their schools as behind the curve in technology advancement.
Teachers and administrators can take practical steps toward bridging the tech divide. Assuming unequal access to devices, schools can focus on technology that can be shared among classes, for example, shared tablet computers and school computer labs, not to mention school-based Wi-Fi.
Then, there is tech that can be used within the classroom, such as interactive whiteboards and projectors, as well as a digital curriculum that all students can access.
Bridging the tech divide is not easy, but for a fairer society with equal opportunity, it needs to be the focus of all efforts. (But a good start to fighting tech disparity is a computer lab in school.)
Nothing in this world is free, and buying cutting-edge electronics for a classroom is downright expensive. While there’s no way to avoid spending money modernizing a classroom, it is at least possible to maximize the total cost of ownership (TCO) by installing devices with longer lifespans and reduced maintenance. Tech with higher upfront costs might actually save the school money as it will face fewer issues and have less downtime while being easier to use. Schools need to assess TCO carefully before choosing purchasing tech.
Moreover, the use of technology should not be confined to the classroom and in fact can be used to streamline administrative systems, cutting costs, boosting productivity, and reducing time wasted on administrative tasks. Cloud computing, for example, offers substantial opportunities for schools to save money. Switching to a digital curriculum eliminates the need to continuously replace outdated textbooks.
Cloud-based computing also reduces the need to keep expensive hardware on-site, which can save in administrative costs, reduce payroll costs (fewer IT techs), and eliminates that 24-hour air-conditioned server room. Also, sharing materials online rather than printing them out saves costs of printers and ink – substantial costs for schools – not to mention all that hard work spent printing.
Less Face Time
No amount of technology in the classroom can replace talented, inspired teachers. As the adage goes, any teacher that can be replaced with a tech device probably deserves to be replaced.
Technology is not the solution to ensuring a healthy vigorous learning culture, it is simply a pedagogical tool that is only as valuable as the instructor who wields it. In fact, while billions of dollars are spent on EdTech, countries that don’t deploy tech often have better educational outcomes than countries that spend heavily.
Face to face interactions between teacher and student can help students not just acquire facts, but to understand, interpret, and apply these facts into useful and interesting knowledge. Through face to face interactions, teachers can help students build self-esteem and confidence and emotional maturity. Particularly in disadvantaged areas, teachers can provide a zone of comfort and security, and everywhere teachers can reduce the cyberbullying that so often accompanies social media.
There are lots of ways to synthesize tech into real-world activities, but sometimes teachers just need to switch off the tech and get down to personal interactions. For example, while so much information can be readily accessed on the Internet, so much of that information is dubious at best and sometimes downright malevolent. Teachers need to guide students on how best to identify useful sources and balance differing viewpoints.
Of course there will be challenges along the way as we adopt new technologies in education and improve them to suit student outcomes. But the advantages vastly outweigh the disadvantages of technology in the classroom. It is just always important to remain aware of where the latest tech is coming up short and to adjust course for the best possible learning outcome for the students.
There’s no reason to be afraid of EdTech, but nor should we rush blindly into digital transformation. After all, education is all about learning, and we should all be open to the ongoing process of improvement that comes with it.