Technology in the form of laptops, if the student is actually using the laptop for work and not cruising Facebook or sending emails, is great. Instant access to information that is currently being discussed in the classroom or that will help a student understand a particular idea is wonderful. One of my jobs is at a community college, where the classroom tech is often a lot slower than the students' personal computers, so we do use them.
However, I absolutely, adamantly refuse to allow students to use their cell phones in class, for whatever reason. I hate the things, despite the fact that I own and use one as my only phone. But, my guys know that if there is one thing that they can do to make me angry, it's to try to text during class or jump up and leave the room to answer a call. I impose a penalty every time, but some of them are so addicted, they do it anyway.
Personal technology is wonderful, but I still am Luddite enough to like a low-tech classroom.
I must admit I disagree to a certain extent with the idea that technology needs to be used as much as possible. What are you cutting out to make room for it? I don't think there is something inherently wrong with having a Wii fit room as part of your gym offerings, but are students still allowed to go outside or do we keep them in because they are then easier to monitor?
If technology is going to allow students to be creative or more adaptive, what is it doing if everything we hand them to do on it is already scripted and we are going to monitor them if they ever appear to go off task? It seems like sometimes we are putting the cart before the horse in this case, making sure that we can use technology in the same way we have used other "technologies" like books or worksheets in our classrooms.
I don't mean to imply that some of those things aren't important or that you can simply say to students "here is a computer, learn away!" but again, if everything is already determined for them and they are simply following steps, aren't they acting just like robots anyway? Where do we let them examine or explore the way they want to?
Teachers need to use technology as much as possible in the classroom because our students are so involved in technology. Education needs to change to keep up with what interests our students. Teachers need to understand how to use technology, and they will not have problems with students going to improper websites. There are many webquests available now that already have the links you need for the quest. Basically, when I give my students an assignment that involves using the computer, I have it well planned so that students are required to accomplish so much in the time allotted. The key to any lesson involving computer use is to plan it well, go through the assignment yourself on the computer to make sure all sites are still available, have a handout for students as reference and explanation, and then monitor, monitor, monitor. This is the only way technology can work in the classroom.
Technology is usually a selling point for private schools to get students to attend. It looks great to parents at open-house, but not to teachers in the classroom every day.
The technology is 5-10 years behind industry, so it does not serve the purpose that it sets out to do, which is to "real world."
Technology's like a commercial: it's a product that is idealized, fantasized. It is not grounded in reality. It's rarely supportable in schools because the personnel who maintain it are underpaid, under-qualified, or both. They're hourly employees, for the most part. There's too much work and headache; little payoff. Something's always wrong, and they're always blamed.
Having seen a school with the introduction of laptops for every student, it again comes down to what you are trying to get out of the class. If you want to look good and have it look like you are using technology all the time, you can have the laptops out every day and kids will mostly be playing games and on facebook constantly. If you want to try and be the police, you can walk around and try to check everyone and make sure they are doing what you've asked them to do.
Ideally you are finding ways to make the technology actually useful in what you are doing. But if you are going to ask kids to solve problems that the computer can do better, or remember things that they can just look up on the computer anytime, why would you be surprised that they use things like enotes to get answers to questions? Why should people get upset when they use the computers or other technology to get around limitations that we try to place on them?
Technology can be very distracting in the classroom if it is not properly monitored by the teacher. It is crucial that the teacher constantly monitor what the student is doing on the computer. Students know when a teacher is not paying attention and most students will take advantage of that.
I'll just take a second to add the obvious: the teacher needs to be where he/she can see the computer screens. If a teacher stays in front of the room and the only part of the laptop that is visible is the back of the screen, there is always going to be surfing, etc. You have to walk around and be behind the students and monitor what's on the screens. One has to be aware of proximity and motivation.
The question focuses on technology in the classroom as a possible distraction to learning, but the truth is that anything can distract students in a classroom or people in a meeting or at work, etc.
Akannan said it well, in pointing out that we have to examine how we define distraction in this 21st Century learning environment. Others have noted that effective discipline, work load, and teaching methods may reduce distractions.
Truth is, that we will always have students who do not care about the topic at the time and will find something to distract them. Whether it be doodling on paper, sneaking text messages, or surfing the 'Net, some students may not be focused on the lesson.
The goal is to provide a motivating environment where students want to learn from you and are eager to engage. That is a truly effective way to minimize distractions.
Certainly technology could be very distracting in a classroom if the teacher allowed that to happen. Technology is very important but students usually do not have a computer sitting in front of them. Schools have filters that allow students to access only certain sites. Most schools also require students to sign an internet safety and usage contract before allowing them to use a computer. Students usually log in with their own password so teachers can also see exactly where the students have gone on the internet.
I think most importantly here is that a good teacher uses technology in a responsible manner. He or she will monitor students at all times and students are allowed to use the computer at certain times only.
Management of students and structure of lesson certainly plays a role in the situation of your question, but there are some important variables. Anymore, a teacher cannot assume that the access to technology is through school computers. At the college level, many students have laptops and are merely surfing on the net, posting on Facebook or chatting with neighbors vis instant messaging rather than taking notes or working. As college is a different venue and students have more choices about their learning and participation, a lot of professors don't care. Some do.
At a public school, almost every kid has their own cell phone, regardless of socio-economics, and many have plans and phones that allow them to surf the web whenever they want, without a school internet filter or a time limit. So that can be distracting. Many if not most students can text without looking at the phone, with their hand in their pocket, for example, so, while that is not accessing the internet, it is still quite distracting.
Most schools block sites that contain certain language and images. YouTube is regularly blocked and so are games. Of course today's student can easily get around that by hacking the system.
Schools also have the capacity to see all screens and require student logins. Thus, the school IT person can easily track which student looked at whatever sites were inappropriate.
I find technology to be a necessary element of education today for two reasons: communication and production. Today's student will need to know how to communicate effectively and efficiently and without word processing, without digesting and sifting through information posted online for vaildity and reliability, students will fail to compete in the communication world. Likewise, students must be able to produce digital, print, and web documents and media. There's is going to be a world continually driven by information media and if they aren't literate or able to create within that venue, they will flounder.
Technology can distract students in a classroom wherein the teacher fails to appropriately manage them, but teachers can't afford that anymore.
The question makes the assumption that technology use is being designed within a traditionalist notion of the classroom where the teacher is the font of all learning. If this is the model or paradigm, then indeed, students will be distracted and divergent because the internet, itself, is such an entity. The problem with such a paradigm is that the 21st century learning model of teaching with technology transforms the role of the teacher to more of a facilitator as opposed to directly guiding instruction. In this setting, then you will have students utilizing their autonomy and technology in different venues. The notion of "being distracted" has to be reconfigured. Instead of such a binary classification, we are examining how students can utilize their freedom in an appropriate manner, displaying tenets of responsible use of technology. There is ample evidence to suggest that the modern student is "wired" differently than traditional conceptions of learning and what constitutes "distraction" has to be seen int he light of responsible or irresponsible use of information technology and computing resources.
If you are asking how can the internet be a distraction if it allows students to log in and go online instead of doing their work, the answer is simple: Not enough monitoring and not enough opportunity for exploration.
The current practice of 21st century teaching and learning suggests that at least every student in a middle school and high school should have access to online research. If the teacher is not specific about where to go and what to do, and does not put time limits and rubrics, the students will definitely move away from the lesson and do whatever they want.
However, if the teacher has a well-prepared lesson plan and knows which sites are going to be used, for how long and with what purpose, the students would never have enough time to do research, present results, and edit and publish and on top of that go waffle around online. So, it is all up to the educator to decide how to discipline the classroom.
I am not sure I understand your question, but I will try...
If there is the right technology, students would be able to access the internet from the classroom. For example, if the school had a wireless network and students were allowed to use laptops in the classroom, bad things could happen.
Students would be able to use their laptops to access the internet and look at things that had nothing to do with the lessons. They could look at sports scores or websites that talked about movies or video games or whatever.
Technology as a Distraction
Do you think technology in the classroom may distract learning because students may access the Internet instead of paying attention to teachers. How?
I think that not just the Internet can be distracting in classrooms but a teacher or students use of other technology can also be distracting.
For example I had a colleague who I observed use a PowerPoint presentation with a Smart Board to teach a lesson. Every slide had a sound effect and titles that swirled in and out...and didn't add to the presentation at all but simply seemed entertaining. Every time she would go to a new slide she would pause the lesson for students to gawk at the "fun" use of technology. I am an adult and I was distracted; I can't imagine how many times she lost her 7th graders with these asides.