What positive and negative effect does technology have on a student's development of learning?

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One enormous effect that I have seen in the classroom, in terms of writing, is the decline of a student's ability to write using complete sentences and complete words. Using shorthand language developed for cellphones shows up in student writings and it drives me crazy. It's almost as if many of these kids believe that using a cellphone to communicate will be the only method of sharing information in the future, and everyone one will use "How r u?" 

I am also dismayed at how students see no point in using a dictionary, doing math by hand, or learning to spell words correctly. What happens, though, when there is no phone to calculate, no spell-check (or worse, one that offers incorrect choices that students mindlessly accept), or a student uses "grey" words/phrases, like "a lot" or "lots" or "said?" Writing becomes so much more engaging with the words selected are colorful, powerful and/or otherwise imposing. Mediocrity seems to be the choice: technology offers immediate gratification, and a machine to think for the individual.

On the other hand, technology can open the world to the mind of a curious kid who wants to learn and report about how pencils are made, who the first man in space was, or what spina bifida is...because his best friend was born with it. And in terms of educating, computers make information available to students for districts that could never afford the number of books their students might need. Instant access can feed a kid's desire to learn. However, teaching everything via PowerPoint presentations, however high-tech the presentation, limits a student's ability to learn in a variety of ways. 

Like anything, there are positives and negatives: perhaps what is most important is how we guide our children towards using technology. We need to make sure they read, too. When doing research assignments, kids need to understand why primary sources on the computer are preferrable to secondary sources, and that just because it's online, does not mean it's a good source—or even true.

As mentioned above, using it selectively, and monitoring its use (rather than sitting at a table and chatting with another teacher or grading papers) is necessary to make sure it is of value to the student in the classroom.

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Like most instructional techniques and tools, technology needs to be used appropriately, carefully, and responsibly. I have indeed seen some irresponsible uses of technology, but I have also seen technology used very well. Certain tools and programs can really transform a classroom or a child. It is about how the tools are used. Technology should complement, not replace, good instruction. What worries me is when people start to think they can replace teachers with technology. That is where things go awry.
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I agree that using technology has the benefit of incorporating IT skills into classes where traditionally they would not have been used, such as English. In addition, in terms of our modern world, such incorporation allows students to develop lots of vital skills such as how to give presentations using IT and how to access information.

However, I share the doubts of other editors that this is overall a "good" thing. From my perspective, as a teacher, technology often makes students more lazy, as they are able to access information quickly and easily without having to work to get hold of it. This means that often students don't really engage in the matters raised by the work, relying on second-hand information to do their thinking for them. This drop in the level of critical thinking is something that greatly concerns me.

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The positive outcome of technology is that the access to information and the ease of producing academic work of quality will always be available. Students of the 21st century have the unique chance of being able to obtain all the data available from around the world to create real-life learning experiences.

The negative outcome is that students may become overly dependent of the technology and will get too used to the instant gratification of fast-speed access. Students should also learn the process of research, study, and investigation and enjoy the analysis of information to enhance their thinking processes.

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I think that technology is overrated as a way of developing student learning.  Yes, students can sometimes care more if they get to use technology in their lessons.  But it also has two major drawbacks:

  • As mentioned in the last post, students often care more about using the technology in creative ways than about having actual good content included in their work.
  • Technology makes it easier for students to simply find something that sounds a bit relevant and then cut and paste it.  They are not forced to think as much as they were before it was so easy to find ready-made materials online.
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A positive effect I see over and over again in my classroom is a student's increased buy-in to the worth of an assignment when it is somehow technologically oriented.  Whether it is typing rote grammar exercises on a word processing program, creating a Power Point presentation, looking up books he or she might like in the library, or conducting research, my students are always more motivated if some type of technology is involved.  A negative effect I see is that students often seem unwilling or unable to complete assignments that do not involve some aspect of technology.  Another problem I have noticed is that we as educators sometimes confuse a good looking Power Point presentation or discussion board as quality work.  I know of a teacher who spends weeks of instructional time as students research and create Power Point presentations, but when the presentations are finally given, they all too often have lots of "bells and whistles" and little substantive information.  The end result always appears to be a classroom full of really great looking Power Points created by students who can't tell you anymore about the topic after the presentation than they could before. 

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There are a huge number of variables involved in evaluating the positive or negative effects of technology upon any given student's learning. No one answer will fit all situations.

If a student is learning a skill that is best mastered through repetition and practice, computer-aided instruction can be highly motivating and very effective. Programs can be written to present increasingly difficult problems if student answers are correct, to provide simpler problems and repeated instruction if student answers are incorrect, and to provide reinforcement and encouragement in all cases. This makes technology a very positive and useful tool for learning many types of mathematical skills.

Other types of learning require other types of instructional techniques. Technology may be very effective in providing drill in the spelling of isolated words, but computer programs are often not the most effective way to learn how to define words through use of context, how to appreciate differing pronunciations and uses of homonyms, synonyms, and antonyms, and other interpretative skills.

Aside from content, student age and learning style preferences also needs to be considered when evaluating the positive or negative impact of technology as a teaching tool.

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