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Sept. 2, 2014

Shutting down on learning

by Eleanor Linafelt, Online Editor-in-Chief
This past summer, MCPS officially released information about its new technology initiative in a public announcement that explains the new plan, which will provide 40,000 additional laptops and tablets to MCPS schools. Blackboards, books and lessons or lectures from classroom teachers are all quickly fading into the past; taking their place are shiny tablet screens, E-books and online lessons and resources. More laptops and tablets available for student use will mean more distractions and less vital human interaction in the classroom. What this all comes down to is a less rewarding learning experience.
More laptops and tablets in our classrooms will be distracting and will take away from our learning. Courtesy of Ed Tech Review
More laptops and tablets in our classrooms will be distracting and will take away from our learning.

The initiative launches this school year and provides increased access to laptops for students in third, fifth and sixth grade, as well as in high school social studies classrooms. In a few years, kindergarten through second grade students will have access to tablets in their classrooms. The devices allow students to save their work and access each other's. They provide access to a countless number of resources. They are a faster medium for students and teachers to ask questions and receive answers. The ultimate goal of computers and tablets in schools is to make the lives and work of students and teachers easier. But our education system shouldn't be striving for easy learning and teaching at the expense of fulfilling learning and teaching.

In order for school to be an engaging and fruitful learning environment for both students and teachers, distractions in the classroom must be limited. Students, particularly those in elementary school, are easily distracted in school as it is. The increased presence of technology in the classroom will only further these attention-drifting tendencies. Two doctoral candidates conducted a study which was published in Computers & Education that showed the negative effect that computers have in a classroom setting. After being taught a lesson, the students were given a test that covered what they had learned. Those using laptops during class scored 11 percent lower on the test than those seated far away from the computers. However, even more significant, students who did not have laptops but were seated near them had a 17 percent lower score than those seated apart from the computers. Not only does the presence of laptops in a classroom distract the user, it also distracts and takes away from the learning of other students.

We all know that students don't just come to school to learn. Another very important aspect of school is the environment it creates for children and teenagers to learn how to socialize and interact with both their peers and teachers. Computers in the classroom will negatively affect that side of school as well. For elementary school students, who make up the majority of students who will receive access to these 40,000 devices, human interaction is vital to their social development at such a young age. The social skills developed in elementary school are critical for helping young students to effectively communicate and interact with others all throughout life. This initiative will give our schools the tools to have more lessons and answers available to students online, cutting down on their need to ask their teachers questions. The Internet will probably have the answers to their questions, but it can't present these answers in the passionate and interesting manner in which good teachers can. Another goal of the initiative is to give students the ability to collaborate on projects with classmates over the Internet, something which is often viewed as a benefit to having laptops and tablets in the classroom.

However, this will cut down on the amount of talking, debating and compromising children learn to work through when physically creating a project together. The new devices will make learning easier and faster but human interaction makes learning more stimulating and more successful.

Computers have their place in society and they even have their place in schools. In a fast-paced and quickly changing world our education system shouldn't lag behind. But 40,000 laptops and tablets do not have a place in classrooms. For the most fulfilling learning experience, technology should be used sparingly in the classroom, not constantly. Students need human interactions and a distraction-free space in order to develop and learn to their fullest capabilities. More laptops and tablets will make that type of environment impossible.



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  • Alum on September 3, 2014 at 8:37 PM
    A really well-written, thoughtful, and well-supported article. I hope Starr notices it (kudos to SCO for tweeting it @mcpssuper).
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