Debating the impact of digital technology on learning

Session 1 provided an insightful view into the possible negative and positive influences that ICT has on learning. This was achieved by using digital technology to gather feedback from children in a live school environment and discussing a range of debates on the subject. The fact that Skype was used in our learning is indicative of the value that technology can add in enhancing and contextualising understanding.

The debate surrounding the use of digital technology in learning is wide-reaching and takes account of cognitive learning, pedagogy, the curriculum plus, socio – economic and cultural factors. Digital technology has become embedded in schooling and now forms an integral part of teaching and learning. It is widely assumed that the use of digital technology is fulfilling its’ original aim. i.e. improving the management and organisation of schooling, empowering learners and providing an effective teaching resource. However, the reality of its application can be different to the aim of digital technology improving efficiency in schools, enhancing teaching and empowering learners. (Selwyn, N. 2011).

Children have benefitted from many advances made in society such as, the development and availability of technology which, in turn provides tools and methods to learn. Children fed back during our session that using computers in class makes learning fun and one pupil stated that they learn more in the classroom by using IT because they learnt more, it was “speedy to find answers” and easier. The Cambridge Review highlights how “children enjoy….’new media’ through computers and the internet, giving them unparalleled access to sources of information, communication, entertainment and leisure.” (Alexander, R. 2010. p.54). Therefore, the use of digital technology in schools is aligned to how society and jobs are progressing and its early introduction plays an important role in developing related skills.

Digital technology provides an interactive experience and engages children in learning in a different way compared to more traditional teaching and learning approaches. This can be turned on its head when taking the perspective of the negative influences digital technology can have on children. The Community Soundings Report referred to in the Cambridge Review (Alexander, R. 2010), focussed on the negative aspect that ICT has on children in terms of them being mere consumers, discouraging the development of communication skills and possible links to behavioural problems. particularly in connection to gaming activities at home. It was interesting that the children who fed back on their experiences of digital technology in the session explained that usage at home was predominantly for gaming and did not include learning activities similar to those engaged in at school through technology. Of course, not all children do have access to digital technology at home therefore, its availability in school is an important element in bridging that gap associated with economic disadvantage. (Selwyn, N. 2011)

The importance of developing a deep understanding of knowledge and information is highlighted particularly in constructivist approaches to teaching and learning. The comment made on the Skype call about ICT providing quick and easy learning may not be beneficial to the child’s actual learning process particularly if there are any misconceptions arising from an activity and an absence of knowing why they have reached the answer they have. It was highlighted in the lecture that studies have demonstrated that the learning undertaken in a virtual environment is not always transferable to the real environment. Developing a deep understanding within the learning process may not always be possible through the use of digital technology for all learning areas. Therefore, it is important to consider that whilst the experience, learning and skills that come with using IT are to be embraced and encouraged, the teacher’s ability to choose which learning areas will be appropriate to include the use of IT in is essential.

References:

Alexander, R. 2010 Children, their world, their educations; final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Review, Abingdon: Routledge.

Selwyn, N. 2011 Schools and schooling in the digital age; a critical analysis, Abingdon: Routledge.