June 23, 2018

OPINION: Is technology becoming more helpful or hurtful?

New and more updated technology is being brought into the school systems around the country. The real question is: Does it impact the students’ learning for the better?

This school year, 2014-15, the Wellesley Middle School launched the “1:1 Learning Initiative,” where every incoming sixth grader was provided with an iPad for daily use in their school day. They plan for these students to use them daily through 8th grade.

“I use my iPad for schoolwork and homework practically every day, so I bring it to and from school,” said a sixth grader at Wellesley Middle School.

However, it is not just the Wellesley who is upgrading their technology, but as the entire state of Massachusetts. According to WBUR, former Governor Deval Patrick’s admission office selected 14 school districts to provide with $5 million in grants for technology. This technology, however, is not even proven to have made any significant impact on the students’ learning. This money could have gone toward improving school lunches or increasing teacher wages.

The parents of the children at Wellesley Middle School were responsible for buying these iPads, with the few exceptions to the kids that needed financial aid. If the iPads really made a difference in the schools for the better, this would be more practical. However, parents should not have to pay additional expenses for technology that does not benefit their child’s learning anymore than without fancy technology.

According to the 2007 MCAS English results, 95% of the sixth graders at Wellesley Middle School passed the MCAS with a “proficient” or “advanced.” In 2014, 87% of the sixth graders passed with a “proficient” or “advanced” in the English MCAS. Even though technology is not necessarily to blame for this decrease, these statistics prove that technology has not improved the outcome of standardized test scores.

Certainly, it is easier for teachers to give the young students lessons on the computer or iPad and keep them engaged with educational games. However, other applications and games are very distracting for many kids. “I don’t use games on the iPads that aren’t allowed, but I know that a lot of kids in my class do, especially [the app] Photobooth,” said Mia Silvestri, a current 7th grader at Pierce School in Brookline.

With the concern that kids are becoming too addicted to their smartphones and tablets, the increase in technology in schools does not help the rising problem. According to Joshua Straub, Ph.D.,“For 8 to 10 year olds, the average time spent online or in front of a screen is almost 8 hours a day. Those ages 11 to 18 spend more than 11 hours per day.”

Instead of reinforcing dependence upon technology, kids should be told to live in the moment without constant screen time and more human interaction. “[I use a computer] in almost all of my classes, which include social studies, English, science, and Spanish. I like to use the computers, but sometimes I think we use them a little too much,” admitted Silvestri.

One positive to increasing technology in schools is that it allows kids to write assignments much faster when using a computer. However, spelling and penmanship skills are no longer important to the students today who type the majority of their papers and have autocorrect on their computers.

However, students should obviously not be completely cut off from technology in school. The relatively new Smartboards, for example, have been a great help in many classrooms. Therefore, there should be more of a balance with technology in the classrooms.

(Lily Fenton ’17, Staff Writer)

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