Learning Digitally: What Do Our Students Think?
In the past twenty years advancing technology has led to massive changes in daily life. Public education, though slow, is catching up. Many classrooms regularly use SmartBoards, laptops, and other tools. Some older educators have found this change difficult, and their students have noticed. From speaking to modern students, it is clear that their teachers must catch up in their technological literacy.
To learn more, I interviewed several students on how technology affects their learning. I discovered that students feel not all teachers understand or embrace new technology. There is a disconnect between teachers, students, and schools, especially with technology mandates. Many students feel that technology is being implemented for show and not for learning. It can also be excessive when put into place by teachers forced to use something unfamiliar.
Students Prefer Self-Guided Digital Work
“I would be more interested if we had more freedom. Being able to do my own thing gets me motivated.”
Students, especially teenagers, enjoy having freedom of choice Self-guided learning is natural. Even from the first days of childhood, kids learn and explore the world around them on their own terms. Once students achieve success in their choices, they are usually more interested in continuing to learn.. Giving them those choices, and control over their learning, makes them feel empowered in the classroom. One student noted this, saying “If I could work on things in my own way I’d be more interested. I’d rather do something I enjoy than just doing a worksheet.” Many students expressed they want a say in the work they do, and to conduct learning in their own ways.
Teachers Are Not Technology Experts, and Shouldn’t Be Expected to Be
“We spent fifteen minutes in class waiting for [math teacher] to figure out his PowerPoint. If he didn’t know how to do it, why couldn’t we have just done it on the board?”
The average age of teachers in the United States is 42. These are older Millenials, who came of age as portable technology was becoming mainstream. Many no computers in the classroom. Usually, the only computers they used at school were in a computer lab. Even as they attended college, cell phones and widespread internet access were not guaranteed. Put that in contrast to their students. The youngest high school students today were born in the mid-2000s. These kids grew up with smartphones, tablets, in-home computers, and 1:1 schools. They are tech-savvy, they’ve been making TikToks and using Google Docs since middle school. They know when their teachers are struggling with new technology. They understand that schools are pushing for technology use, even unneeded. They don’t need it all the time! Students are fine with traditional methods of teaching. Why are we pushing teachers to change their proven methods, when the students would prefer them? We’ve seen many teachers across the United States questioning the role of technology in education, and rightly so.
Students are Unimpressed with How Technology is Being Used
“All these websites are the same. Why can’t we just use one that does everything? The links are confusing.”
This point goes back to the purpose of technology in the classroom. Schools have spent millions on laptops, subscriptions, and online textbooks, for what? To institute cell phone bans? Research has shown there is no concrete evidence that tech-focused education leads to student achievement. Many teachers have shied away from it. When links bombard students, they get confused and give up. They get tired of passwords and accounts on various websites. Their work spread across platforms. They lose things and get zeroes. Teachers get repeated questions about locations and assignments. It’s not helping anyone.
Modern students need freedom in the classroom. They want to be able to guide themselves in their assignments, with trust from their instructor. They need educators that understand the technology they put in place. Students will catch on to an educator inexperienced with technology. Finally, if technology is in the classroom, it must be in a way that is innovative. Students get bored with the same type of assignments, or little use of the technology they have at hand. The majority of American students have access to a vast array of entertainment and education in their pockets. Schools, students, and teachers must work together to create lessons that engage students. These lessons can include the new tech, but also the tried-and-true methods from our veteran teachers.
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