December 3, 2020

OPINION: Even with more technology, faculty must show restraint

Fall 2017 is expected to mark a new step in the progression of education at the high school: the introduction of a mandatory 1:1 technology program.  The program is expected to have many benefits in the classroom by enabling teachers with a multitude of new tools and presents an opportunity for Wellesley High School to take a progressive step forward in education.  But it comes with a cost.

The transition into the 1:1 program comes as part of a district-wide initiative to increase technology use throughout Wellesley, previously featuring the introduction of 1:1 tablet use throughout the middle school.  The program’s next phase at the high school has been pitched with a positive message as it is set to begin next year, but the information about it presented by the district leaves out many ominous details.

Any sweeping change that digitalizes the learning environment in every classroom in the high school is extensively ignorant to the way that many students learn.  According to the Association for Psychological Science, taking notes by hand is significantly more effective for long-term internalization of academic material than typing the same notes on a computer.  Furthermore, increasing the prevalence of screens in classrooms also leads to a corresponding increase in disconnect from the teacher, leading to a less interactive learning environment.

“I think [the 1:1 program] will be received positively,” said the district’s Director of Technology Kathy Dooley. “We surveyed the high school population and students were very positive about the program.  They said it sounded nice and were excited.  The program really has an option for everybody.”

Not every student who attends classes at 50 Rice Street is excited to increase the amount of digital technology used in his/her studies, however, contrary to Dooley’s expectations.  “I believe that laptops and technology are useful, but should not be required for each student at WHS,” said Sarah Ditelberg ’16. “Each student has a different way of learning.  Technology may be the way for some students, but for others, it may not.

If counterproductive impacts on students’ education were not enough cause for alarm, the catastrophic consequences of excessive electronics use from a health standpoint should be.  According to Scientific American, the spreading routine use of electronics is dangerously reducing humans’ ability to form basic memories.  Similarly, the New York Times reports that children who use electronics regularly have been observed to develop symptoms equivalent to those of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  

The increased use of technology in the learning environment inherently means increased use of it to do homework at home as well.  As a result, this program will indirectly harm the sleep of high school students, who will be using technology even more into the night, an activity that Brigham and Women’s Hospital says will harm overall health, alertness, and humans’ circadian clock over time.

Apart from the academic and health concerns, many of the fundamental behavior concerns of the high school environment also take shape with the introduction of mandated technology in the high school.  Students will be more prone to check social media sites and become distracted during class than they already do on cell phones, as well as more easily be able to cheat via digital transfer of information.

It is undeniable that computers are power tools in the academic environment and open many doors for students when utilized properly.  But it is imperative that teachers and administrators consider the many negative academic and health consequences as they take advantage of this new tool and exercise caution and restraint.  The high school community can look forward to being proud of its progression towards 21st century learning – but should it do so at the price of student health regression?

(Matthew Hornung ’16, Media Director)

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