Obligatory Restriction of Personal Technology in the Classroom: A Retrospective Analysis and Potential Approach
The late twentieth and twenty-first century has given rise to countless technological innovations (Britannica). These technologies have sped up the rate of information exchange throughout the world (Dublon and Paradiso 2014, Schlesinger 1971). Furthermore, the commercial output of such devices has expanded the modes in which humans can sense, and therefore learn, information (Dublon and Paradiso 2014).With these improvements comes innovation in teaching materials and methods incorporating the use of technology. Especially in developed nations, the educator has evolved from the teacher to devices, with the teacher being the facilitator rather than the lecturer (Furr et al. 2005). In the modern era, personal laptops and internet access have become ubiquitous in classrooms (Weaver and Nilson 2005). Tablets, interactive white boards, and even smartphones have propelled education into the digital age along with these laptops (Firmin and Genesi 2013). However, innovation does not always correlate with improvement. There is ongoing debate regarding the effectiveness of the implementation of technology in classrooms. Such evaluation gives rise to the dilemma: Is it beneficial to restrict personal technology in the classroom? Personal technology will be defined as devices belonging to the individual with access to the internet, including laptops and smartphones. After examination of the role of technology in classrooms, it is concluded that technology should be restricted for the student. Furthermore, technology must have a clear and defined presence in the classroom; there must be a stated purpose of incorporation rather than assigning technology to students without a stated purpose.
The implementation of personal technology in classrooms has posed a plethora of detriments towards student learning. A study conducted by Jane Vincent, a fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science’s department of media and communications, found that the students retained knowledge better while handwriting as opposed to typing (Vincent 2016). Students should be exposed to the method in which they will keep the knowledge; in this case, handwriting hardcopies proved more effective than typing soft copies. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental organization committed to stimulate economic progress and world trade, published in a report in which they claimed that heavy funding towards school computers and classroom technology did not improve the performance of students in standardized testing (PISA) results for reading, math, and science (OECD 2015). The Director of Education and Skills at OECD, Andreas Schleicher, claims that technology is not at fault, but the school system not effectively utilizing technology and integrating digital resources with teaching (OECD 2015).
Outside the classroom, technology has also changed the curriculum of courses. The rise of technology has instilled a profound change in the study of history. In the past, historical studies have been based upon the word of expert historians. As technology speeds up the rate of information exchange however, eyewitness history, history based on witness accounts, has become more prevalent in historical studies. Arthur Schlesinger Jr, an accredited historian, scrutinizes eyewitness historians. He states the “eyewitness historian in the domain of facts thus seems on examination less compelling than the arguments of the technical historian” (Schlesinger 1971). The negative drawback of having many different accounts of history all accepted as fact is inherently derived from technology. More people are able to share their versions of history, thus skewing the true facts of history.
Unequal opportunity to provide technology also presents itself as a detriment of not restricting technology. Known as the digital divide, many districts cannot afford to provide their students, teachers, and facilities with advanced technology including computers and internet accessing devices. Therefore, equal opportunity in education cannot be reached. Following is an example contrasting the difference between an affluent and a low-income district (Hechinger Report 2012). The Hechinger Report, a reputable news source, provided examples. The Bronzeville Scholastic Institute of DuSable High School provides 24 computers total for its nearly one thousand students. Contrasting this, there are schools providing 1 to 1 programs for their students. If a 1 to 1 is not provided, students could still access their work from home via cloud-based drives. Low-income districts did not provide these at home benefits, and to complement this detriment, many low income students cannot access devices at home. If technology were restricted, there would less of a need for government to fund such expenditures. Thus, reducing the speed at which the digital divide continues to expand.
Perhaps the most dangerous risk for students while on devices including laptops, tablets, and smartphones is the risk of distractions. Often referred to as “multitasking”, the breadth of services these devices provide will draw students’ attention away from their studies (Aagaard 2015). A researcher at the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences at Aarhus University, Jesper Aagaard, details in a study that “social networking sites, news, funny images, and videos displace educationally relevant material” (Aagaard 2015). Another quantitative study conducted by researchers at the Wilfrid Laruier University found that “when two cognitive tasks were being performed simultaneously there were decrements in performance in at least one of tasks, namely memory performance” (Wood et al. 2012). Because some uses of technology poses as a serious distraction to students, technology should be restricted to ensure students are consistently on task while using technology.
To add to classroom distractions, unlimited access to internet opens doors for students to perform illegal internet activities. The Gallup Poll survey found that 83% of young people claimed that downloading pirated music was acceptable (Gallup 2003). It was also stated that the majority of unauthorized downloading and uploading of content is performed by youth. Outside of digital media, piracy also has come in the form of academic resources. The easily accessible internet resource, Sci-Hub, harbors copyrighted academic papers that require payment to be viewed, however Sci-Hub provides pirated copies of these papers free. It was revealed by a data collection paper by Daniel Himmelstein, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, and his team, that Sci-Hub harbors over two thirds of all scholarly articles as well as 85% of papers that require purchase to access (Himmelstein et al. 2018). The ease to illegally access intellectual property must be restricted to prevent the purloining of such works, and this may be done by limiting internet and technology access to students.
The onset of extensive personal technology and internet usage gives the opportunity for students to be exposed to safety hazards. Unrestricted internet and technology access opens doors to potentially unsafe online situations. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children claims that 78% of internet sextortion cases involved female children and 12% involved male children (Wittes et al. 2016). The average age of sextortion was about 15 years old (Wittes et al 2016). Internet sextortion is claimed to be a risk for teenagers going online. The risks include exposure of underage sexual content of the child, obtaining money, and having sex with the child. Such dangers must be reduced to the lowest possible risk level for students. Hence, internet and personal technology must be limited for students to prevent such risks for students.
In addition to dangerous cyber situations, the potential for physical health detriments arises as well. The Vision Council, a leader in the optical industry, asserts that 30.1 percent of teens and children experience many of the following symptoms after viewing screens for over two hours: headaches, neck and shoulder pain, eye strain, reduced attention span, poor behavior, and irritability” (Vision Council 2018). Such physical detriments presented by the onset of extensive technology use will be limited and restricted following the implementation of personal technology restrictions. Furthermore, there have been increased cases in recent years surrounding the phenomena of internet addiction. Sarah Garwood, an adolescent medicine physician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital claims, “If you teen spends hours in front of a computer screen each day, he or she could be missing out on other creative, physical or social activities. While teens might use social networking sites like Facebook to connect with others, spending too much time on the Internet can actually lead to social isolation in some teens” (St Louis Children’s Hospital 2018). These implications associated with extensive internet usage is continuously a risk for children to develop. Therefore, limiting access to these devices and internet will decrease the risk for adolescents and students to experience these negative drawbacks of technology use.
While personal technology has been proven potentially ineffective for learning in students, technological advancements have made the jobs of teachers more efficient. Various Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) including the internet, laptops, smartphones, and social media have been stated to accelerate the learning process (Firmin and Genesi 2013). Performance increases with teachers that use devices effectively (Sutherland et al. 2004). Personal devices to students also present several benefits: typing is faster than handwriting, typing is legible, and proofreading is much quicker (Firmin and Genesi 2013). However, giving these devices and unlimited access to the internet to students requires a high degree of trust in the student to stay on task.
The culmination of this evidence brings the conclusion that personal technology including laptops and smartphones should be restricted for students to ensure their focused and continual learning. Furthermore, internet must also be limited for students, as distractions including social media and unauthorized access of content must be limited. Technology, if kept in the classroom, must serve a clearly defined role. Andreas Schleicher, the OECD Director for Education and Health has claimed that technology is not the true issue at hand, it is the implementation and integration of technology into the classrooms that must be revised and reformed (OECD 2015). Therefore, it is argued that technology must be reevaluated in districts to serve a clear purpose in the classroom, not just given to students and left to their discretion what to do with devices.
Implications of this solution include the potential loss of benefits that technology can provide including speed of typing, proofreading, and legibility. However, these benefits can still be utilized with the imposed restrictions, and the benefits associated with this solution outweigh such implications. Limitations of this solution include the introduction of such restrictions. The current education in the United States relies on personal technology, which may prove difficult to overturn in favor of this solution. A potential future study may be to implement such restrictions on a small scale to see effects, and make a decision from there. However, for now, technology will remain until such restrictions are studied further.
In retrospect, the culmination of this evidence resolves the issue to a compromise: technology should be restricted for students to ensure on task learning, prevent students from conducting illegal operations, protect their safety and health, and keep the digital divide from continual expansion. Specifically, students should be provided devices to reap the benefits, but internet and application restrictions should be implemented to guarantee the focus of a student. Teachers should be trained to integrate technology into their classrooms. Technology should have a clear purpose in the classroom, which must be drafted before implementation.
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