Does the Use of Technology Help or Harm Students?

Angela Scioli a teacher at Leesville, is an example of a teacher with a strict phone policy. To make sure students’ phones are away, she has a phone-docking system to keep her students engaged in the lesson.

There’s no doubt that technology and phones have impacted our lives in drastic ways. Our generation is able to obtain information much easier than generations before us.

If a student now needs to know a word to use for Spanish or French homework, all they have to do is go to Google Translate. However, older generations did not have all the information they needed at their fingertips any time they needed it.

My parents always told me how different school was when they were my age. If they had a big due date for a project coming up, they had to go to the library, get a catalog from the librarian, and work on the project there. Likewise, if they were stuck on a homework problem, they didn’t have the luxury we do of looking the answer up.

Now, if students have a big project, they can gather all my information at home, or even on my phone. I can Google key words and have an entire article about my topic in seconds.

That’s what makes modern technology — specifically phones — such a hot topic in regards to schools. Communication and research have become almost instantaneous.

While these aspects make it seem like phones only have a positive effect on learning, there are many disadvantages associated with the use of phones in school.

Although students use their phone to conduct research, they easily become distracted.

Eliza Bohinski, a sophomore at Leesville, uses her phone as a way to obtain information for homework or projects. Bohinski said her classes sometimes send out helpful information through social media about upcoming assignments or helpful links. However, while Bohinski checks for reminders on social media, sometimes other posts create distraction. Bohinski  said, “I can get really distracted by Snapchat, and Instagram, and sometimes Twitter.”

Most students, who have grown up with phones and know exactly how to use them, prefer to use their phones in class over old textbooks or even computers.

Jennifer Yost, a math teacher at Leesville, said, “Kids sometimes know how to navigate their own device better.” In Yost’s class, students review by playing games on their phones instead of computers. Occasionally, students review by playing games rather than practicing problems in textbooks.

Alternatively, there are many ways technology is beneficial to a classroom.  For example, online class review games keep students engaged in class, as well as provide essential review time. Catherine Sollie, a Spanish teacher at Leesville, said, “In my class, we don’t use [cell phones] unless we are using them for an activity that I think would help them reinforce vocabulary or grammar.” Online games like Kahoot, a favorite among students, never fails to keep students engaged; but why? Games such as Kahoot bring out students’ competitive side, and are likely to help kids review while the kids are having fun. With cell phones so frequently monitored by teachers, students get excited when they are not only allowed, but encouraged to use their phones.

Teachers have a difficult time keeping students focused on the lesson because they are constantly tempted to use their phones for non-educational purposes.

Sollie, as well as many World Language teachers, use “butt break” to keep a student’s attention away from their phones and on the lesson.  During “butt break,” students are given a designated time, about two or three minutes, to use their phones, walk around the classroom, or go to the bathroom. Sollie said, “I felt like if I gave students a designated time to use [their phones], then I wouldn’t have to fight the fight during class and remind the kids to ‘put their phone away, put it away, put it away’, and spend so much time during class dealing with that management issue…”

“Butt break” has been very successful in all the classes where it has been implemented. Sollie said, “I think it’s really worked because I don’t see a lot of phones anymore unless the students are on their butt break. And I feel like if you give them a little bit of time to do what they [want to] do, they won’t take advantage of it during class and try to be sneaky.”

This brings us back to a topic that has been disputed many times: does technology overall help or harm students ability to learn? If a student is writing a paper for English, and all they do is reword the “analysis” section of Sparknotes on their phone, are they really learning? Are the drawbacks of technology worth the instant facts and communication?

Overall, I believe technology can be extremely beneficial for students, as long as students stay on-task and don’t stray from their original focus. The benefits of phones outweigh the drawbacks: phones can be used in endless ways in the classroom, such as review, research, reminders, information, and more. Students can find out information faster than previous generations and communicate with teachers to receive extra help. Modern technology has come a long way and provides students with all the information they need to learn at their fingertips, and should be used as much as possible to enhance students’ learning experience.


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