Progress for Progress’s Sake Must be Discouraged.

How digitizing education is negatively affecting learning.

It was 2014 when I began the ninth grade. It was an exciting time to say the least, what with being a high schooler for the first time. My friends and I were looking forward to beginning the next phase of our educational careers, especially during this thrilling time. It was 2014. Central High School was finally getting iPads!

With iPads, classes would be connected in a way that they had never been before. Students would have unrestricted access to online databases. Teachers would have the entire class in the palms of their hands, and would be able to share everything electronically. With putting these high-tech devices in the hands of every student at Central, learning would be made more academically engaging and efficient, communication would be a breeze, and money would be saved…right?

On the contrary, my friend.

The most prominent problems I immediately observed were misuse and disuse of iPads. I frequently noticed people either sitting not doing the assignment, or using their iPads to stream shows, play games, or use twitter. Teachers usually made in-class assignments due at midnight to make them universally accessible for all classes throughout the day. Therefore, most, if not all of the students would take an online assignment as to mean ‘free time’. Central student Ethan Wilmes said, “I mean, let’s real talk now, why do it now if I can do it later at home?” This was the refrain among many students.

Digitizing education costs more money, depreciates our teachers, decreases structure and discipline, and it should not be administered in schools yet.

The adolescent mindset is not one that teachers can simply bestow with responsibility. Teenagers do not naturally set their own limits. Our digital world eliminates limits and often, accountability. Without more research, educators can not completely replace paper with electronics. Going paperless, simply because we can, is not an adequate justification for doing so in the education system. Here is a link to a satirical piece I wrote last year that expands on this.

An accurate representation of how many students misuse their phones in class.

Throughout my high school experience, I have seen many teachers attempt to build entire courses catered to iPads, without any foundation to build upon. There has been no in-depth examination of the effect of digital medium in order to determine how best to use it in our schools. Teachers have been using us as lab rats to try out different methods, many of which have been unsuccessful.

The increase in electronics can be seen in our nation’s test scores. “There were declines of at least 2 points on all three sections of the test — critical reading, math and writing” (Anderson, “SAT Scores at Lowest Level in 10 years…”). The College Board shows the average SAT writing score in 2015 to be 484. This is 13 points less than 9 years ago. The iPhone was released in the summer of 2007, the same year that we begin to see this decline. Scientists have known that there is a direct correlation between reading and writing, and that writing improves retention and promotes cognitive development(Miller, “Writing, Thinking: A Critical Connection”). As the world around us becomes supersaturated with devices, teenagers spend hours a day on electronics. They no longer pick up a book in their free time. They update their ‘status’ instead. Electronics are more of a distraction than a useful tool.

Teachers have had iPads thrust upon them, regardless of whether or not they wanted them. Our society is pushing everyone to digitize in great haste, and it is hard for many to process. Many teachers at Central have struggled with the instantaneous integration of iPads. The assimilation has just begun, but not without costs, both academic and financial. So much time has been wasted due to malfunctions. In 2015, Central claimed to have run out of paper because of “less state funding”(Leachman et. al). Yet in every classroom, there are $15,000 worth of iPads paid for by a grant. It would be much more economically logical to just get a grant for paper. Not only is it cheaper, it also can’t run out of battery life.

With all this said, I am not against the use of electronics in schools. Some teachers do utilize iPads in a way that benefits the student. iPads are a fantastic resource that allows all students to have access to all the information they need. iPads are a dictionary, a calculator, a textbook, a planner, even a notebook. But what we must understand is that it can also be distraction, a gaming device, a television, an answer key. iPads have been forced on us without enough forethought. Schools have attempted to integrate Pads into the old curriculum, with less than successful results. Elliot Soloway, the founder of the Center for Highly Interactive Classrooms, Curricula and Computing in Education, says, “Bolting technology onto an existing curriculum will not lead to increased student achievement”(Tynan-Wood, “iPads in the Classroom: the Promise and the Problems”).

J.K. Rowling said it best in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

“Progress for progress’s sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognized as errors of judgment.”(J.K. Rowling)

The method in which educators are approaching this undertaking is all wrong.

In order to successfully unite education with electronics, the entire education system must be reformed. The curriculum must be reworked to fit the new reality of our digital world. Old lesson structures must evolve in order to properly function. This means completely reshaping the formula for teaching so that iPads can be universally used for everything relating to school. It is evident from the Central experiment, that more research must be done to examine all of the pros and cons of digital learning devices. Furthermore, teachers must be trained to be more engaged in their new role of supervisor and facilitator of learning. This will keep the existence of their jobs relevant. Now is the time to stop and think, “Is this a good choice or a bad choice?”

Works Cited:

Anderson, Nick. “SAT Scores at Lowest Level in 10 Years, Fueling Worries about High Schools.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Cheng, Allen. “What Is the Average SAT Score?” What Is the Average SAT Score? Prep Scholar, 30 Jan. 2016. Web. 15 Nov. 2016.

Kleinfeld, Mark. “Paper Note Pads vs. Technology: Reasons Why Paper Is Here to Stay.” Paper Note Pads vs. Technology. N.p., 9 Nov. 2013. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

Leachman, Michael, Nick Albares, Kathleen Masterson, and Marlana Wallace. “Most States Have Cut School Funding, and Some Continue Cutting.” Most States Have Cut School Funding, and Some Continue Cutting | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Miller, Mark James. “Writing, Thinking: A Critical Connection.” Santa Maria Times. N.p., 27 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.

Rowling, J. K., and Mary GrandPré. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine, 2003. Print.

Tan, Albert. “The Chinese Student’s Guide to Playing on Your Phone in Class | Haogamers.” Haogamers. N.p., 29 Apr. 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.

“Total Group Profile Report.” SpringerReference (2015): n. pag. College Board. 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 9 Nov. 2016.

Tynan-Wood, Christina. “iPads in the Classroom: The Promise and the Problems | Parenting.” Parenting. GreatSchools, 7 Mar. 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Like what you read? Give Robert Dean a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.