Ours is now a world of constant communication. We can reach colleagues, friends, and family in an instant thanks to our technological connectivity anywhere from wherever we may be. It’s hard to imagine that it has not always been this way. And as teachers struggle with implementing technology in their classrooms in the most advantageous ways for all students, they often find technology getting in the way. With students’ heads bowed scanning the screens of their iPads or other digital devices, teachers must often compete for some modicum of attention for a lesson they are presenting.
Maybe there’s really nothing new about this classroom phenomenon. Teachers have been competing for students’ undivided attention since the days of Aristotle but the most consequential outcome in the digital age may be the loss of students’ conversational and broader social skills. As one writer expresses it: “Kids have to use their five senses, and, most of all, they have to talk to each other.” In a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study across more than three dozen countries (not including the United States), moderate computer use in school results in modest academic gains. More frequent or heavy computer use has a negative impact on student learning.
So students in the digital age may actually be learning less as they use their computers more. Besides turning off or moderating their use of digital devices, what should these young people do. Maybe have a face-to-face conversation with someone?