Effects of technology in learning

There has been a lot of projects supporting technology in learning. The project involves providing hardware and internet access to most of our schools, educational software and training the trainors to use technology in their teachings and handling of their classes.

But after everything has been said and done, do we actually measure the effectivity of all these efforts?

According to research by Patricia Greenfield, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and director of the Children’s Digital Media Center, Los Angeles, as technology has played a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined, while our visual skills have improved.

Learners have changed as a result of their exposure to technology, says Greenfield, who analyzed more than 50 studies on learning and technology, including research on multi-tasking and the use of computers, the Internet and video games. Her research was published in the journal Science.

Reading for pleasure, which has declined among young people in recent decades, enhances thinking and engages the imagination in a way that visual media such as video games and television do not, Greenfield said.

How much should schools use new media, versus older techniques such as reading and classroom discussion?

“No one medium is good for everything” Greenfield said. “If we want to develop a variety of skills, we need a balanced media diet. Each medium has costs and benefits in terms of what skills each develops”

Schools should make more effort to test students using visual media, she said, by asking them to prepare PowerPoint presentations, for example.

“As students spend more time with visual media and less time with print, evaluation methods that include visual media will give a better picture of what they actually know” said Greenfield, who has been using films in her classes since the 1970s.

“By using more visual media, students will process information better” she said. “However, most visual media are real-time media that do not allow time for reflection, analysis or imagination — those do not get developed by real-time media such as television or video games. Technology is not a panacea in education, because of the skills that are being lost.

“Studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary” Greenfield said. “Reading for pleasure is the key to developing these skills. Students today have more visual literacy and less print literacy. Many students do not read for pleasure and have not for decades”

Parents should encourage their children to read and should read to their young children, she said.

Among the studies Greenfield analyzed was a classroom study showing that students who were given access to the Internet during class and were encouraged to use it during lectures did not process what the speaker said as well as students who did not have Internet access. When students were tested after class lectures, those who did not have Internet access performed better than those who did.

“Wiring classrooms for Internet access does not enhance learning” Greenfield said.

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