There are definite differences in the way children are taught in the classroom today than one or two generations ago. My grandparents’ generation were hands-on, trial and error types. They learned to work problems out in their heads. Now many of them have learned to adapt to some of the new technology, but are resistant to making it the center of their lives – taking it one step at a time. They are still curious to find out how things work, and are not afraid to take apart a computer in order to find out how it works. After all, they are the generation that went to the moon, first saw color television, and brought us the beginning of the technology age. They still want to keep learning.

Computers are in almost every classroom now, or at least in every school so students can access them. With so many technology advances every child has to learn how to use a computer in order to survive in this world. The questions many people are asking however is, Are we letting our children become dependent on gadgets and less on working out problems using their own brains?

A friend of mine grew up in the late 1950s and 1960s, when typewriters weren’t even electric. I remember her telling me that she was very good in math, but when she learned to use a calculator, and became fast at it, she found herself becoming more dependent on the calculator for even simple math. She is very skeptical when she sees her grandchildren pulling out calculators to do their homework, and is afraid they will become more dependent on technology than on they will on their own minds.

Her children grew up in the expansion age, where they had one computer in the classroom. They were in high school before they got a computer and internet at home – a dial-up connection that was slower than molasses. They did research and downloaded programs and video games. It was not yet essential in their homework.

Now most children have computers in their home and many in their own rooms. Many even have internet on their cell phones. They can research projects and interact with  learning modules, as well as play games on them. In some states (like North Carolina) students must pass a computer aptitude test before they can move on to high school. According to educators, “Using technology only enhances the hands-on experience; it does not- and cannot- replace human interaction.”

“Students are often the guinea pigs in ‘IT-enabled’ classes as faculty test out whether the latest innovations actually help learning,” said Arman Assa, MBA candidate and president of PackMUG—the Mac Users Group at NCSU. “Some faculty, in an effort to use the latest buzzword or receive the next big grant, are testing technology simply for the sake of technology, rather than using technology as a tool for learning, such as paper and pencils. When people focus too much on technology, they lose sight of the true purpose of technology, which is to facilitate learning in the classroom.”

“Historically, communal learning has always been the most effective way for educating the student and generating thought-provoking discussion in class. I don’t believe technology has reached a point where we can duplicate that effectively on a computer,” Assa said.

College professors are assigning lessons to be submitted online, and infants have learning centers especially for them. Technology is not going away, and new things are being developed all the time that require new training.

As long as educators and parents work together to see that children do not lose sight of the need to use their brains to find solutions, and use technology as simply another tool that will help them expand their universe to explore other areas of study, the human brain and technology can work side by side.

I am Ron White, Two Time USA Memory Champion




Educause – Using Technology As A Learning Tool, Not Just the Cool New Thing, by Ben McNeely: