For more than 2,000 years, experts have feared the impact that technology will have on student learning. Plato records that Socrates complained that writing would sap the will of students to commit facts to memory and thus ruin education. All this time later, experts and conservative college professors are still concerned that new technologies will have a negative impact on student achievement, even though past technologies have led to a steady increase in student performance over time. In order to evaluate whether our love of gadgets has a positive or negative impact on student achievement, let’s take a look at some of their most important effects.
Positive: Active engagement with learning.
Gadgets give students new ways to interact with learning content, and technology can create a stimulating and engaging learning environment that captures students’ imaginations and helps them to remain interested in what they are learning. The interactive nature of technology means that homework assignments and practice questions can provide real-time feedback rather than waiting for a teacher to grade their work days later. This promotes engagement and helps students to monitor their own performance and stay ahead of potential problems.
Negative: Distractions from learning.
Gadgets give students new ways to avoid learning as well. A smartphone can give students a world of learning at their fingertips, but it also provides ample room to become distracted by social media, email, games, etc. When students are unable to focus on the task at hand and become distracted by their devices, they lose out on valuable learning opportunities and won’t get everything they need to get out of their lessons.
Positive: Promotes group learning.
Gadgets can help students connect with one another, making it easier to engage in group learning and activities. In the past, group work was one of the most dreaded parts of learning because students would have to expend significant time and effort to get together to work with one another. But technology has made it easy to work together no matter where students are located. With students less resistant to group work, it becomes easier to reap the benefits of social interaction and the stimulating effect that it has on learning.
Negative: Allows students to avoid doing work.
Gadgets don’t just help students to connect with each other. They also connect students to others who can provide answers because they have taken the same course and to professionals who will assist students with their work for a fee. One of the most popular services involves professional essay writing, where a trained writer will produce an essay for a student. While there are legitimate uses for a professional writing service for students, many college students use their gadgets to attempt to buy their way out of doing the hard work needed to achieve true learning, preferring to pay for an A rather than work hard and gain learning from a course.
Positive: Continuous learning opportunities.
Gadgets also help students stay in touch with their teachers and professors around the clock. With instructors only a text message or an email away, learning doesn’t have to stop when class time ends. Students can get help, advice, and feedback on their schedules, which helps to promote more positive learning outcomes. When students are able to stay in close contact with their instructors, they are more likely to remain engaged with their studies and to feel more positive about their learning experience.
Negative: Added pressure to be in learning mode all the time.
When instructors are available around the clock, then a class never really ends. Students may feel pressure to be working on classwork or thinking about a class topic around the clock to keep up with their instructor and their peers. The lack of downtime can cause students to burn out or to become resistant to learning if the experience becomes unpleasant. Some will turn to a professional academic writing service for students to buy enough time to get away from the high-stakes pressure of continuous learning.
Overall, there is no one answer to whether gadgets have a positive or negative impact on student achievement. The answer is both and neither. Ultimately, gadgets’ impact is what students choose to make of them. Like any tool, they can be used productively or destructively, and it is up to each student to make the right choice in using technology in the way that best meets their needs.