Over the last few years, we’ve been reading interesting articles that discuss the effectiveness of Educational Technology (EdTech) in the classroom. The vast majority of the readings agree with the same statement: EdTech does not support the teaching functions, does not improve student's grades nor increase test scores.
Here are three recent examples:
- An important new study on student use of the technology has shown that students who have access to the Internet in the classroom are being distracted out of learning in any kind of meaningful way. Students who used laptops in lessons voluntarily logged into a proxy server which monitored their in-class behavior and researchers found that “the average time spent browsing the web for non-class-related purposes was 37 minutes. Students spent the most time on social media, reading email, shopping for items such as clothes and watching videos (Chronotope).
- New research by scientists at Michigan State University suggests that laptops do not enhance classroom learning, and in fact, students would be better off leaving their laptops in the dorm during class. Although computer use during class may create the illusion of enhanced engagement with course content, it more often reflects engagement with social media, YouTube videos, instant messaging, and other nonacademic content. This self-inflicted distraction comes at a cost, as students are spending up to one-third of valuable (and costly) class time zoned out, and the longer they are online the more their grades tend to suffer (Scientific American).
- Laptops are commonplace in university classrooms. In light of cognitive psychology theory on costs associated with multitasking, we examined the effects of in-class laptop use on student learning in a simulated classroom. We found that participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. The results demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to comprehension of lecture content (Computers & Education).
For decades EdTech has been used to strengthen the human effort to generate meaningful learning. ET Staff have been hired to install audiovisual resources in classrooms, but not to facilitate learning and improve performance by creating, using and managing appropriate technological processes and resources. It's unfortunate that in 2017 the education system still make the same mistakes of the past with cinematography radio, television, video, CD-ROM and proprietary software. Nowadays, with the emergence of micro-computers, iPads and smart mobile phones connected to digital networks, the education system has invested millions of dollars equipping the classrooms in public schools with network infrastructure. But the biggest mistake that they are making is the incorporation of digital resources to complement the traditional teaching-learning process. Students come to the classroom or laboratory to take notes of the linear narratives of their professors in order to study them for the next exam. Students should use their computers only to access the digital content, search for information or answer their questions. This is an example of how convergent technology is used only for lower cognitive thinking in the classroom.
Disruptive educators believe that EdTech was not created to enhance the instructor's training, student's grades or to memorize digital contents. It works better to provoke significant learning, instead of studying for the course lessons. Those technological resources were created to develop higher-order thinking skills, innovative adaptive thinking, and to overcome the physical, geographical, temporal and social-cultural limitations of the educational system. The lecture halls and digital technologies are different platforms that don't mix with each other.
Our political and educational leaders must understand that this generation of students are no longer the same people for whom our education system was conceived. The Gen Z and Gen Alpha will read, write, communicate, learn and work in different ways. They will never be part of a Civil Society because they are digital citizens of the Network Society. These generations won't engage in our traditional system of education. For them, the classroom will no longer be the exclusive place of learning. And studying 4 or 5 years at a university has become a long-range expectation. The new generations of students will come to the classroom to be the protagonists of their own learning, not to listen to the 90 minutes cathedra of their teachers. These young people will learn better in the midst of movement and distraction than in silence and contemplation.
As Harold Jarche state in his recent blog post:
Training courses are artifacts of a time when resources were scarce and connections were few. That time has passed. The world is not stable. Work is not routine. Problems are not standard. What worked today may not work tomorrow. I call this a state of perpetual beta where our mental models and how we work need to change with the environment. Training as knowledge delivery is dead. If you are in the training field, now is the time to expand your mental models and build capabilities in social learning support. First, become an expert learner. Then you may be ready for an uncertain future.
The best example incorporating the EdTech in the classroom is transforming the community culture, not to continue perpetuating the traditional role of professors and standardized test administration. Educators should learn how to design new hyper connected ecologies with their students to construct new learning nodes. Classrooms should not be used as a transmission content environment, they can become social laboratories in which research is done, to create new products of collective utility, to design solutions to the problems that affect us most, and to learn how to face with the big uncertainties of the era. One of the university's missions should be to help learners overcome their own limitations in eradicating poverty, hunger, environmental pollution, and promoting collective wealth.
To invest millions of dollars from the federal or state budgets using digital technology in the same way as analogic educational resources of the last century is a waste of money, time and effort. If you are one of those who believes in preserving the traditional educational paradigm, the best thing you can do is to ban the computers, tablets, and smartphones from your classroom. Such technologies become distracting from your classical speech. If you are one of those who thinks that students learn more through lectures and are better evaluated through standardized tests, it would be advisable to disappear the digital technology of the classroom. These technologies will cause your students to disconnect from the class and lead to scoring low grades in their courses. If you don’t believe in transforming traditional education through co-design of disruptive learning experiences with EdTech, let others do it and step aside.
The Educational System is responsible for introducing an emerging technology into an anachronistic structure that doesn't want to change. Because pushing the new into the old is a superfluous expense that limits the creative capacities of educators and students that want to think and act differently. It’s time to begin equipping our teachers and students with cognitive tools, not only the classrooms that are static places where knowledge becomes encapsulated and artificial. Conferring academic degrees to professionals who will end up doing the same thing everywhere will not benefit our VUCA World.