To ban or not to ban? Technology, Education and Media (Reviews)

I am honored to co-write this article with Joshua Eyler, adjunct associate professor and director of the Center of Excellence in Teaching at Rice University.

Our conversation began in July when a handful of articles from reputable sources emerged in conjunction with the start of the school year. From Scientific American and the Brookings Institute to NPR and Inc, editorials warned students, parents and educators of the dangers of technology to learning. Referring to a handful of studies, the authors of these editorials argued that laptops, tablets and smartphones should be eradicated from classrooms if students hope to take notes and learn content effectively.

These editorials cited Mueller and Oppenheimer (2013) The pen is more powerful than the keyboard, Carter, Greenberg and Walker (2016) randomized controlled trial of technology in economics classes at West Point, as well as Hebrook and Gay (2003) report on the effects of multitasking in the classroom for making broad statements about technology and learning. Whether the researchers in these studies ever intended to generalize their findings to larger populations and contexts or not, their work has become a rallying point for anyone who denounces the impact of technology on learning. students. As has been discussed on this blog in the past, empirical research required critical analysis before making causal claims.

We do not want to dispute the research of other researchers, and we do not intend to make our own claims based on the interpretation of these studies. Instead, we believe a bigger conversation needs to take place – one that addresses the assumptions behind these articles. Each of these editorials approached research from an educational perspective based on an industrial age model. The authors assumed a traditional educational model without questioning what might be possible given technological advances. This approach has led editorial writers, and potentially researchers, to formulate three hypotheses about how technology can be viewed as a learning factor.

The first hypothesis is that all learning is synonymous with memorization and facts. Certainly, students need to know some information and facts before they can move on to higher-order skills like synthesis and application, but there is so much more to learn than what Paulo Freire called the “concept. banking ‘of education, where an instructor files information and students remove it for exams. Linked to this concept, studies seem to assume that all learning environments are based on lectures. Many instructors use active methods, rather than passive ones, at least to some extent, and taking notes in a discussion-based course would be very different from the conditions these studies assume to exist in the average classroom.

The second fundamental assumption inherent in these pieces is that learning is first and foremost a sole proprietorship rather than a social enterprise. However, classrooms are social spaces and our students are human beings who interact with each other – and with us – in order to build knowledge. Decades ago, social psychologist Lev Vygotsky developed the concept of “zone of proximal development” in his posthumously published book Mind in Society. Vygotsky explained that people cannot accomplish so much on their own until they need a skilled teacher or peer to help them learn more. Some learning gains are possible when we work alone, but there are limits to our ability to achieve a level of mastery if we are not working with other people.

The final assumption that guides these editorials is that everyone learns in exactly the same way. Research on accessibility in higher education (as well as K-12) and universal design for learning clearly contradicts this assumption. Some students are better off taking notes by hand, but other students, such as those with specific types of learning or mobility disabilities, may need laptops or tablets to successfully complete the assignment. classes. Yet others might use learning strategies that make mobile devices an important tool in helping them as learners. Simply put, a fully accessible course allows the use of any technology by students.

In 2010, education researchers Collins and Halverson wrote that digital technologies fundamentally challenge the structures on which schools base their identities. Students are no longer confined to a single time, space, teacher or classroom to learn. The presence of laptops, tablets and smartphones therefore challenges not only the basic education system, but also the assumptions on which teachers, parents, administrators and policy makers have been making decisions for years. We hope this will be the first of many articles to challenge these assumptions and steer the conversation towards creating environments that support all learners.

The references:

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2010). The Second Educational Revolution: Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology. Journal of Computer-Assisted Learning, 26(1), 18-27. doi: 10.1111 / j.1365-2729.2009.00339.x

Vygotsky, LS (1978). The mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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