Technology has opened the gates of information accessible to geographical locations around the world. The recent surge in technology usage has yet to be analyzed for its effects on students’ success in the classroom. As our society continues to incorporate digital learning into school systems, we must analyze current differences in literacy, test scores, and quality of learning environments before the classroom was consumed by technology. Many questions still need to be answered surrounding the advantages of a digital classroom. a traditional classroom and whether or not face-to-face interactions between students and teachers make an impact on the educational experience of students. Supporters of digital classrooms claim access to an unlimited amount of sources enhances students’ knowledge and learning experience. Dissenters, in contrast, claim digital classrooms and online courses carve a pathway for cheating due to the lack of supervision, limit students’ ability to communicate thoroughly in conversation and cause a decline in social skills.
Though there is little evidence regarding the risks or advantages of increasing technology use in schools, thousands of studies recently conducted attempt to correlate technology usage to performance in school. Many of these studies are unable to conclude any obvious differences in students’ academic performances between the content being traditional lecture style or online. In fact, Robert Irizarry analyzed the Self-Efficacy and Motivation Effects on Online Psychology Student Retention and found finding a student’s motivation to succeed and their personal regulation may have a more significant impact on any individual’s learning experience than the content delivery method. The factor of motivation is equally as important to consider when schools contemplate instituting digital classrooms as affordability or ease of access to online resources.
Another study by Clement Chen, Keith T. Jones, and Keith Moreland, for the CPA Journal, analyzes the differences between students enrolled in an accounting class where half of the students evaluated took the course in a traditional classroom, and half took the class with the same professor online. This investigation was an important step in the efforts to determine if online classes are more educational than traditional classrooms because the professor’s teaching and course material did not differ between classes. Ultimately, there was no significant enough difference in final grades to prove whether or not students in the accounting class performed better in the online class or the traditional classroom, but after Chen, Jones, and Moreland received feedback from students who took the class, students who took the online class expressed having more difficulty mastering the class’s material than students who took the class in a traditional classroom. Analysts suspect students may find online courses more challenging than traditional classes because they must remain accountable for learning course content individually.
Beginning in 2009 was another push toward digital classrooms when the Common Core curriculum was developed by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices. This association aimed to create standards that would best prepare students for college and establish states’ expectations for students to know upon graduation. The Common Core pushed for increasing technology in kindergarten through twelfth-grade classrooms, mandating schools “make strategic use of media” (SL. 11-12.5.). States confidently enacted this standard which expanded here in Florida later in 2015, when a new state law called for students to complete an online class in order to graduate.
On a larger scale, the United States has consistently fallen below nations such as China and Singapore, which do not use as much technology in their school systems, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which oversees the largest international math and reading exams in the world. The United States’ lack of preparation for students’ proficiency in reading and math suggests there may be struggles in our education system because of students’ reliance on technology to provide instant answers.
There are dozens more examples of how legislatures continue to push technology further into every aspect of our lives, yet not enough time has passed to determine the effects of digital classrooms as opposed to traditional style classrooms. In the midst of a rapidly changing information age, integrating technology into classrooms seem reasonable in order to provide training for future technology-related jobs in the growing industry. However, if states do not proceed with caution, the drastic changes which have occurred in the education system over the past fifteen years may be irreversible as people’s reliance on instant information increases.
Online learning tools connect students worldwide, expanding the scope of knowledge available to students. Even more, technology reshapes the relationship between educators and students. Being able to share, connect, and learn from anywhere opens innumerable possibilities to learn and teach. Devices give students independence in the classroom, letting students learn for themselves rather than being lectured by a teacher. This freedom expands students’ range of creativity and allows students to experiment, finding their own learning style. Online learning requires an incredible amount of independence and responsibility for the student. Creative thinking and adaptability are essential skills in today’s education.
The strength of the teacher and student relationship additionally affects students’ performance. Harvard students, Hunter Gehlbach, Maureen E. Brinkworth, and Anna D. Harris, tackle the dynamics of student and teacher relationships. They address how students are motivated by “achievement and motivational outcomes.” In their research, Gehlbach, Brinkworth, and Harris found a correlation between motivational teachers and academic improvement. Encouragement and healthy feedback raise the students’ incentive to succeed. Students are more inclined to learn from educators that care about their personal growth. Small daily interactions build personal relationships between teachers and students. The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire says eighty-eight percent of Americans had a teacher with a positive impact on their life. Teachers change people’s lives, with students gravitating towards their educators for learning and support. It becomes a positive cycle of reinforcement, with students working harder and teachers more willing to help their students.
This positive feedback is much more present in physical classrooms, where teachers may connect with students on a personal level. As Rita Pierson says in her TED talk (“Every kid needs a champion”), “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” Building connections in person encourages people to connect. Pierson delivers powerful lessons every educator and student should hear. Encouraging students to strive higher, even when they are low, gives them something far greater than facts: perseverance. One example from Pierson’s lesson describes a student who had a two out of twenty on a quiz. Instead of belittling him with a minus eighteen, she said he got a plus two. Pierson then asked the boy, “when we review won’t you do better,” to which he responded, “yes ma’am I will do better!” Something simple as looking a student in the eyes and saying he will achieve something greater will never be replicated on a screen.
Negative relationships between students and teachers work in the opposite way. Students who take online classes have a lower chance of passing or completing the course. They are less accountable, leading to less proficient work. Online classes require “high levels of self-motivation, self-regulation, and organization,” yet students who struggle in classes tend toward online education (New York Times). Recent trends show students who struggle in classes need extra credit, or credit recovery classes. The classes should help students learn information more clearer and catch up to their peers. One study conducted in Chicago public high schools shows students taking online classes tend to suffer academically compared to face-to-face classes. These recovery courses were harder, with less chance of receiving credit and gaining less knowledge on the subject afterward. The evidence suggests students who had face-to-face contact got more effective help than those taking online courses.
High school classrooms in 2019 are filled with tablets, smart boards, and laptops. Each one of these pieces of technology provides a purpose in the classroom, but at the same time, hinders the students’ learning abilities. Tablets and laptops allow students to take notes with ease and access online content. Smartboards allow teachers to use presentations and visuals during their lectures. Online learning sites such as KhanAcademy, Moocs, podcasts, and Youtube provide massive amounts of information at students’ fingertips. Typing notes provides faster and more organized notes for students but this may decrease the retention of information. Pam A. Muller of Princeton University studied the difference between learning with laptops in the classroom versus simple paper notes. She found that laptops not only provide distractions to students but also limit students’ comprehension of information. The technology uses the passive brain while using your motor functions, like writing, use your active brain. The “encoding hypothesis” states that a person taking notes processes information that will improve initial comprehension and long-term retention. When asked to remember facts, such as dates, Muller’s experiment proved that both groups performed equally well. When asked conceptual questions, requiring the application to previous knowledge, the students who used laptops performed significantly worse. This demonstrates the depth of knowledge that is lost when screens are introduced. While technology eases accessibility to learning, it also can be detrimental to students’ long-term proficiency.
When observing technology’s effectiveness in the classroom, it is important to understand the mental health issues commonly seen in high schoolers, and how technology affects this. Mary Ellen Flannery, in a 2019 survey, found that 70% of teenagers believe they face a major issue of anxiety and depression. She also found that a 2016 study showed among college students, two-thirds of those surveyed suffered from overwhelming anxiety; 25% of these students stated their anxiety affected their academic performance. Researchers delved into the reasons behind these high percentages and found that as smartphones have risen in popularity, so has anxiety in teenagers. It is not so much the device itself, but rather the services that come with it and habits they encourage which negatively impact teenagers.
Since technology has become more prevalent in daily activities, schools have adapted their teaching methods to fit the digital era. Smart boards, laptops, and tablets are instruments used by teachers and students during class time. While these technological advancements have the potential to improve education, they also have the potential to disrupt it. Laptops provide students with internet access, becoming a distraction to those who would rather check their social media accounts than classwork. As these students ignore information taught in class, they have poorer results on assignments and their grades will decline: leading to anxiety. These distractions can occur outside of the classroom too, for example, when a student is at home working on an assignment. Distractions cause teenagers to stay up late into the night completing schoolwork, making it even harder for them to pay attention at school the following day; generating a cycle of stress and anxiety.
A fairly new phenomenon called technostress may describe the correlation between technology and the rising stress and anxiety of students. King University describes technostress as “a modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with new technologies in a healthy manner.” Technostress can lead to difficulty concentrating, inability to relax, low confidence, and difficulty sleeping. Essentially, technology can lead to symptoms of anxiety. When introducing the usage of technology in schools, it is necessary to consider the negative impacts technology has on students mentally. Students of all ages already struggle with anxiety and screens can only deepen that issue.
Technology, specifically social media, has led to online interactions without physical connection, causing teenagers to experience less face-to-face interaction. Due to the decrease in social interactions, students are less likely to be able to interpret social cues or experience empathy for others. The increase of technology in the classroom decreases the time students spend interacting and building those necessary social skills. More anxiety and stress arise in this scenario, once more demonstrating that technology does not always positively affect a student’s education.
With the entire world at their fingertips, students’ attention spans are shortening. Because so much information is readily available on the internet, today’s generation has been programmed to expect everything at a high-speed pace. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that children are constantly experiencing stimuli while their brains are trying to learn how to organize information and pay attention. Because we are constantly being bombarded by these stimuli, children’s brains are lacking the development of how to focus. Electronics are linked to “executive functions, such as concentration and focus, as well as insomnia, mood swings and anxiety.” It is suggested by The National Alliance on Mental Illness that growing children be limited to screen time of 45 minutes per day. This is difficult to enact for children who are using computers, tablets, and Smartboard throughout the entire school day.
Invading every other part of our lives, it is no surprise that technology has found a way to influence higher education. Not only has technology introduced different classroom tools, but also forms of college education that differentiate from a traditional four-year degree. In the fall of 2017, The National Center for Educational Statistics found that over 2 million undergraduate students receive their college education exclusively through distance learning. This represents about 13.3% of all undergraduate students in the United States. Many four-year universities also offer online courses in addition to their traditional classroom-style courses.
This increase in technology raises the question: how is the value of a college education changing? Historically, many students have been deterred from pursuing higher education because of time restraints, family obligations, and the inability to pay for the high sticker price of a four-year university. Now, students have a new option when looking to pursue a college education. Online degrees give students the ability to work at their own pace with the freedom to juggle their own schedules. Still, many people may believe that online education is not as beneficial as face-to-face learning because you do not build some skills necessary for communication in the workforce. Corporations interviewing graduates may see four-year university degrees as a higher level of prestige than an online degree because of face-to-face learners’ experience with cordial interactions. Certain jobs require people skills and problem-solving skills to be as equally important as the content offered. With online learning, it may be more difficult to develop those skills because communication with people and real-world problem-solving are limited.
Whether proponent or adversary of online education, there is no doubt that online learning has catered to the consumer culture of Americans. As technology increases, we are focused on instant gratification. Online learning provides an education that meets the needs of the consumer, working around families, jobs, and financial restraints. Rather than taking four years to immerse in studies, online schooling allows students to earn a degree for the rest of their life.
While distance learning has developed since it was first introduced in the 1990s, four-year universities have become increasingly popular as well. At the start of the information age, in 1970, there were about 9 million students enrolled in undergraduate universities. In 2017, this enrollment has risen to 19.66 million (Duffin). This increase may be due to the cultural pressure to attend a traditional four-year university. Many researchers concluded that because of the increase in college enrollment, the value of those college degrees decreases. Jessica Dickler The financial aspect of college varies from person to person, however, the earning gap between those with a high school education versus a college degree is estimated “to be more than $32,000 per year” (Heckler). In addition, technology is rapidly changing the labor market. The World Economic Forum states that “new categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others.” Higher education has shifted to accommodate the unknown future career paths of students. Education is not only focused on teaching content to students, but allowing them to develop critical thinking skills, and social skills required for the uncertain future of the workforce.
The task of regulating the usage of technology in classrooms is a challenging one to handle because of the vast range of possible benefits and downfalls technology brings into education. States are faced with difficult decisions to make when deciding if pushing schools to incorporate technology will positively impact students or be detrimental to future generations. If education systems continue to advance at the rate technology is, there will be no way to revert back to traditional style teaching, should long-term effects of technology be concluded in the future. Making this situation even more difficult, the short time span in which technology has been rooted deeply into daily life has not