Technology benefits young students if interactive, engaging

Technology is nearly everywhere these days. Whether it’s your cell phone, tablet, or computer, everyone is constantly surrounded. In recent years, however, it has occupied a prominent role in not just our jobs, but in schools as well, serving as a tool for students to use. This, of course, has raised the question as to whether or not technology is truly helpful for these young students, specifically kids who are still in middle school and elementary school.

Those who grew up in the early 2000s and before remember not having a tablet or laptop constantly with us throughout our elementary education. However, kids born soon after seem to suddenly be surrounded with all these electronics during their school day as a means of learning.  Although devices such as laptops and tablets allow for quick and easy access to the Internet, the question remains as to whether or not it is truly useful.

According to Lisa Guernsey, an early education researcher, young kids do actually benefit from the use of technology such as tablets and computers; however, they do not benefit when the activities they participate in are not interactive.

In a study by Georgetown University published in Infant Behavior and Development in 2016, researchers discovered these results quite quickly. Researchers conducted an experiment in which three groups of kids watched a puppet show – one group simply watching it on a screen from a tablet; another on a computer monitor that required them to tap on the keyboard space bar to figure out what would happen next; and the last group watched a live version that looked similar to the puppet show the other kids were watching on screen. Afterwards the kids were asked to find the puppets in the room.

The results were quite interesting: “Researchers found that the video-watchers went through a process of trial-and-error before they succeeded. It was as if they weren’t sure where to look. But the kids who had played the interactive game or watched the live demonstration did quite well, with most of them heading straight for the right place.”  This experiment offered a correlation with how interactively kids got information and how well they were able to apply that information to a scenario that needed it.

When Mrs. Beilfuss, a social studies teacher at Glenside Middle School, was asked about whether or not she notices a difference with technology occupying a prominent role in the classroom and if it is beneficial, she mentioned that “there is so much freedom in having technology in the classroom. Students have access to media, Internet, and word processing all the time.” When used interactively, technology offers several benefits that allow kids to noticeably expand their learning. However, she also mentions that “[t]he drawbacks are all the tech issues that happen every day, throughout the day.” The main problems tend to be issues with the functioning of the devices themselves.

Overall, it seems that, if used properly — so that students are constantly engaged and participating in learning activities — technology will benefit education in a significant fashion.