Technology in the Classroom

    Technology has been the focus of each generation. It has been integrated into work places, homes, shopping centers, and now schools. Schools now have technology for educators and students, and school boards are upgrading classrooms each day. But what is this technology really doing for students? Could it be essential in the learning process? Or, is it only a distraction?   

Students my age and older remember the big projectors, whiteboards, and even chalkboards. We found it exciting to be given the opportunity to use a computer, but these days no begging is needed for students to be granted the use of advanced technology in the classroom.  It is hard for me to remember completing assignments without the use of technology; whether that was writing an essay or completing a research project. I have seen many students thrive while using technology and others easily distracted. Teachers have begun to use it everyday in the form of smart-boards; students use the computer everyday, there are laptops, and some schools even use IPads. Schools are now teeming with advanced technology.

        But is this technology helping or hindering schools? Is this technology motivating students? If so, how? 

        In the article Effects of Technology on Motivation the author states that “over the last ten years, they have seen a significant decrease in the motivation of students (, as well as their abilities to pay attention, stay on task, and complete assignments.” This writer believes and states that “It is the lack of technology in the classroom that is to blame. While some educators assume that the digital revolution is to blame, saying they feel that fast paced video games have replaced reading at home and therefore cause students to have less restraint and less motivation to gain knowledge.”

        So is it advanced technological use at home and in a student’s free time that is the cause for no motivation, or is it the lack of technology in the classrooms? The writer of the article states that “with the explosion of technology over the past ten years, it is imperative for policy makers, researchers and educators interested in bridging the digital divide in education to step up and keep up with our changing world.” The results of a research study by Chrystalla Mouza, -an assistant professor of instructional technology at the university of Delaware- seems to show that introducing advanced technology into a classroom does just that. She writes that “the study demonstrated increased interaction among students and teachers in laptop classrooms. Laptop students frequently traded skills with other students, shared technology related tips, and served as peer tutors for both technology and non-technology related topics.”

       In this study the incorporation of technology into assignments seems to spark an interest in the students, and the author of Effects of Technology on Motivation believes the best way to increase motivation in the schools today is to keep up with the times. They go on to say that “yes, students are playing fast-paced video games at home, but they are also surfing the web to gain information and staying socially connected through digital technology.” Since technology is a big part of a student’s life at home it is expected to be at school as well, and anything less is not enough to keep their focus. Students are learning real life skills by using technology at home and to put them into a classroom, stick a textbook in front of them, and tell them to pay attention dampens their spirits and causes a drop in student motivation. Chrystalla Mouza, writes that “a controlling environment can forestall student motivation and learning desire

         Chrystalla Mouza wrote that this study showed her that “Laptop programs represent an important class of initiatives in the field of educational technology because of their increased popularity and their potential to bridge the digital and didactic divide that currently exists in schools.”

She also wrote that to learn “21st century skills” such as “information and communication skills, thinking and problem-solving skills, and interpersonal and self-directional skill. students must be given 21st century tools that simulate authentic work environments.” In her report she wrote “that student use of laptops supported learning.” “It increased student motivation and persistence in doing schoolwork, it facilitated increased interactions with peers and teachers; it empowered students by fostering confidence in their academic abilities; and it fostered academic gains in writing and mathematics within the laptop group.”

So in using advanced technology in the classroom teachers did not need to drag the students along with their lessons and push students to think above and beyond. When given the use of technology students went above and beyond on their own, and in today’s society where teachers and educators are trying their best to get students interested in learning again this kind of study would be inspiring and may put school higher up on a student’s priorities.

In another laptop study done by Deborah L. Lowther, a professor chair, instruction curriculum leadership at the university of Memphis, who specializes in the integration of technology in grades k-12. Steven M. Ross, a senior research scientist and professor at the Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University and Gary M. Morrison. They have found a lot of the same results. In their study The Influences on Teaching Strategies and Student Achievement of Using Laptops in the Classroom, they found that “students were more eager to engage in project based activities.” Also after interviewing the student’s parents they received multiple positive anecdotes on incorporating laptops into the classroom. “More than one third of the respondents indicated that having the laptop had increased their child’s level of computer skills, and other skills.”

Both studies indicated that the laptops had aided in the development of what Chrystalla Mouza refers to as “21st Century skills.” In the study by Deborah L. Lowther, Steven M. Ross, and Gary M. Morrison, teachers indicated that “they felt that the laptops enhanced student research skills, ability to work together, and interdisciplinary learning.” When receiving results from parents they found that “31% thought the laptop had helped their child with school-related work such as research and writing skills, and 20% felt the laptop had helped increase other skills such as organization and ability to accept responsibility.” Both studies show amazing results when incorporating technology into classrooms and both do mention increase in motivation and the “eagerness” to learn.

What interests me about these studies is that they are done in elementary schools. Both studies mention an increase in student motivation, but I and I am sure many others remember that in elementary school that drive to learn new things and develop new skills had not yet left. When I was in elementary school I loved it, especially from grades 1-5; I would even have labelled myself as a quick and eager learner. So all of these results say that many of the children did develop skills, and in the study they did compare laptop classrooms with other classrooms. but I am skeptical in assuming it was technology alone that caused this increase in skills and learning and not just the fascination of something new. Even Deborah L. Lowther, Steven M. Ross, and Gary M. Morrison wrote that “the present results can be considered only suggestive rather than conclusive about the benefits of the laptop program.” For when I think back to a time without advanced technology in the classroom I would say many were just as capable of learning these skills in the same amount of time.

Technology is a huge part of our society and everyday life, so I can understand the driving need to incorporate it into schools. I can understand what the idea is, integrate laptops into schools at a young age so as to educate children on the proper educational uses of laptops and IPads in and outside of schools. In this way, they may grow up with the knowledge of how to use technology properly, and the dangers that come along with it.

Those who have tried to incorporate laptops into high schools have had different results; news reports have shown that introducing technology into classrooms does come with other problems. Though students in certain schools have shown increased motivation when using advanced technology in the classroom, other students have taken advantage and are using this technology for things other than educational purposes. The New York Times wrote about schools that have decided to get rid of laptops. Winnie Hu, a writer for the New York Times wrote in an article that Liverpool High in Liverpool N.Y that “students have used their school-issued laptops to exchange answers on tests, download pornography and hack into local businesses. When the school tightened its network security, a 10th grader not only found a way around it but also posted step-by-step instructions on the Web for others to follow.” A school like many others tried to use advanced technology in the classroom and were seeing disastrous results.

This could be in line with Bill Ferriter a teacher himself who disagrees with the idea that technology motivates students. He wrote that “while kids may initially love technology-inspired lessons in schools simply because they are different from the paper-driven work that tends to define traditional classrooms, the novelty of new tools wears off a lot quicker than digital cheerleaders like to admit.” Students at first may be excited about the use of advanced technology in their assignments, but they soon realize that it is the same work, and they have the same guidelines. Students want freedom with the work they are assigned, a topic to run with and come up with information themselves. Instead they get specifics and are told they are able to use a screen in completing the assignment. Ferriter writes “What students are really motivated by are opportunities to be social- interact around challenging concepts in powerful conversation with their peers. They are motivated by issues connected to fairness and justice, by the opportunity to wrestle with the big ideas rolling around in their minds.” So to assign them things that do not touch on any aspects that they think is relevant to their own lives will just make a student's mind wander, and then you have a problem with the misuse of laptops. Ferriter writes that “Technology’s role in today’s classroom, then, isn’t’ to motivate. It’s to give students opportunities to efficiently and effectively participate in motivating activities built around the individuals and idea's that matter to them.” He finishes with the statement that “finding ways to motivate students in our classrooms shouldn’t start with conversations about technology.” So putting a laptop in their face instead of textbook is not going to spark an interest in the kids, and if it does, the spark is short lived and could go out at any time.

In an interview with a fellow student Morgan Thompson, she recounts her experience with technology in the classroom and many of the points she brings up are in line with Bill Ferriter. 

Me: did you have advanced technology such as laptops or iPads in your classrooms?

Morgan: We had a computer lab but no computers in the actual classroom.  We did have IPads in the classroom though, we had like a cart full of IPads we used in the classroom sometimes.

Me: Did that motivate you academically, having laptops or IPads?

Morgan: Mostly I found them really annoying, I think it’s because of the fact that it was an IPad though, I would have preferred a laptop because IPads are so hard to navigate.

Me: So did that make you work harder in classes, having the use of IPads and computers?

Morgan: No, I don’t think it was motivational, I just think it was a nice change.

Me: How did that affect your grades or your classroom grades? Did it affect them at all? Did it help the students having IPads or computers?

Morgan: I think for the students that just get technology and know a lot about it, having technology in the classroom helped them because they were better at that kind of thing, and they can work with it. For me it didn’t, because I am not like, savvy that way. But I think for a lot of people it helped.

Me: Did you see people working harder when they were given the chance to use computers? If they were sitting down in a classroom and writing, were they talking all of the time? When they got to use computers were they actually working?

Morgan: I think they were more distracted on computers. I think there is more opportunity for it.

Me: Did you see students misusing technology?

Morgan: Yes, you know on google drive, you can do group conversations where you all contribute on one project. People would use the group chat, that was a big thing, and the teacher hated that. That was the main one. There was a lot of Facebook and stuff too.

Me: did the teachers have problems controlling the use of it?

Morgan: In our computer lab they had the main computer, and they could bring up a view of all of the computers so they could see what each student was doing. So if a student was doing something wrong, then the teacher would talk to you and the student would stop doing it.

Much of this coincides with Bill Ferriter’s observation that students are initially excited about technology and they love the change, but technology itself does not motivate.

So what do I conclude? I believe that technology is an important aspect in schools, but should not be used as a tool by itself to try and motivate students. Technology can be helpful when it comes to school; It can help teachers get a message across and teach. If a student does not understand a lesson or two, the teacher may refer them to online lessons that may be more helpful because they explain the same lesson in a different way. This saves time for both the teacher and the student, so no one needs to lose their lunch hour or stay late after school. But though technology can be helpful, during research projects and work like it, I would have liked to see teachers encouraging students to put more effort into doing thorough research with resources that are not online. It would have been beneficial to us in the long run, especially in preparing the majority of us for university. Also after seeing news reports on the downfalls of incorporating laptops into the education system at higher grades I see the benefits of starting in elementary school. That way teachers have more control of the students and can educate them on the proper uses of technology, and they can explain the consequences of misusing technology. Is technology in schools motivational, well probably not. But the integration of technology is inevitable, and should be well planned out, and have everyone on board.


Work Cited:

"Effects Of Technology On Motivation." Issues in Schooling. N.p., 03 July 2012. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

Mouza, Chrystalla. "Learning with Laptops." Journal of Research on Technology in Education 40.4 (2008): 447-72. Web.

Lowther, Deborah L. "When Each One Has One: The Influences on Teaching Strategies and Student Achievement of Using Laptops in the Classroom." Educational Technology Research and Development 51.3 (2003): 23-44. Web.

Ferriter, Bill. "Are Kids Really Motivated by Technology? (Bill Ferriter)." National Education Policy Center. N.p., 03 Sept. 2012. Web.

Hu, Winnie. "Seeing No Progress, Some Schools Drop Laptops." *The New York Times*. The New York Times, 03 May 2007. Web.