Technology in education is a powerful movement that is sweeping through schools nationwide. After all, today’s students have grown up with digital technology and expect it to be part of their learning experience. But how much of a role should it play in education?
Proponents point out that educational technology offers the potential to engage students in more active learning. It can facilitate group collaboration and provide instant access to up-to-date resources. Teachers and instructors can integrate online surveys, interactive case studies, and relevant videos in order to offer content tailored to different learning styles. Indeed, students with special needs frequently rely on assistive technology to help them communicate and meaningfully access course materials.
But there are downsides as well. For instance, technology can definitely be a distraction. Some students tune out of lessons and spend time checking social media, playing games, or shopping online. One research study revealed that students who multitasked on a laptop during class scored 11 percent lower on an exam that tested their knowledge of the lecture. Students who sat behind those multitaskers scored 17 percent lower. In the fall of 2017, University of Michigan professor Susan Dynarski cited such research as one of the main reasons why she bans electronics in her classes.
More disturbingly, technology can pose a real threat to student privacy and security. The collection of sensitive student data by education technology companies can lead to serious problems. In 2017, a group called Dark Overlord hacked into school district servers in several states and obtained access to students’ personal information, including counselor reports and medical records. The group used the data to threaten students and their families with physical violence.