The Pros and Cons of Technology in the Classroom

Using technology in the classroom is one of those issues that makes it easy to be a fence sitter. It’s difficult to be 100% for the use of educational technology all of the time, when there are so many convincing arguments against it.  Most teachers find a happy medium with technology—it’s useful in some situations, but a distraction in others.

This great article on Huffington post offers an example of a kindergarten classroom where young learners use technology naturally and in authentic ways. The article also goes on to discuss the problems many pediatricians have with technology use by young children, such as excessive screen time, which can lead to poor sleep habits. In addition, doctors worry that children who use devices at a very young age become more focused on learning to select and swipe than on developmental processes, like handwriting and shoe-tying.

Technology gives children the ability to learn in ways their parents and grandparents never had. Today’s learners have immediate access to answers and research. Yet, that immediate access is changing the way students think about work and how they feel emotionally. We’ve put together a list of some the pros and cons that surround the technology in the classroom debate.

Pros of Technology in the Classroom

  1. Data and analytic reporting: Apps and platforms offer teachers ways to combine all the information they might need to know about a student—title I status, attendance history, performance on quizzes, English language proficiency, participation in special education. With this information, teachers can easily see how their students are preforming as a whole class, as a subgroup, and as individuals, and can provide intervention as needed. Most edtech apps include easy to use reporting features, so that assessment data can also be shared with administrators and parents.
  2. Just in time information: This article from Computerworld explains how just in time learning is helping cooperate workers learn what they need to in order to solve immediate problems, rather than siting through entire classes full of information they may not ever use. The same goes for classroom learning. Edtech is allowing teachers to see where students may be missing particular pieces of understanding and to then target lessons just for that knowledge. Instead of sitting through hour-long lectures of material they’ve mostly mastered, technology is allowing students to learn what they need, when then need it.
  3. Differentiated instruction: Educational apps allow for students to progress at their own pace. Many are adaptive, meaning that questions and problems will get easier or more difficulty, depending on student performance. Programs can adjust to meet students at their precise learning levels. In addition, the multitude of apps and software available means that students in the same classroom might be using different systems to learn similar material, depending on their interests and learning.
  4. Different learning modalities: Incorporating technology into the classroom means that students have exposure and access to different ways of learning. Maybe some students do thrive in a lecture environment; others might be great independent learners, who can gather information from educational software. Giving students the choice of different ways to learn means they’ll likely explore and try different techniques, and in the end, learn the best strategies for themselves as individual learners.
  5. Assistive tech for special needs: We’ve covered apps specially designed for special education teachers and students in the past. Educational technology makes it possible for students with special needs to thrive in academic settings. From adaptive word processor apps to programs that speak for children who struggle with language, technology allows students to communicate and be involved with their teachers and classmates.

Cons of Technology in the Classroom

  1. Replacing teachers: Many tech enthusiasts roll their eyes when people voice their concerns that educational technology is a way to replace teachers in the future. But do their concerns lack validity? You don’t have to look too far in the past to find instances of technology replacing workers: the auto industry, agriculture, and manufacturing industries have all mechanized many parts of their process, laying off workers in the process. While few people think that teachers will become obsolete, the newest advances in edtech are powerful enough to deliver content, assesses, and set students on a new course of learning, all without teacher intervention. What does that mean for the future of teaching?
  2. Distracting: This is probably the number one worry of teachers who consider implementing classroom technology: the concern that students will be too busy tweeting and Snapchatting to pay attention to the lesson. Students’ innate curiosity, coupled with their tech savvy could lead to more online socializing in environments where devices are easily accessible.
  3. Easier to access others’ work: Plagiarism has been plaguing teachers forever. Students today can easily access essays, reports, class notes, tests, etc. online, making it that much more difficult for teachers to know if the work their students hand in is original. Though there are tech tools to help teachers discover if the work is plagiarized, no system is perfect.
  4. Disparity of access outside of class: Not all of our students have access to technology tools outside of the classroom. Yes, the library is an option, but there is often a wait for computers connected to the Internet, and even then, you can’t download apps and software onto public computers. Assigning technology use in the classroom is fine if all students have access to the device. But when edtech programs are considered for homework, at home intervention, or even flipped learning, student access to the Internet must be considered.
  5. Privacy: Privacy of student information and data is enough of an issue to keep many teachers and schools away from implementing any sort of broad reaching tech initiatives. Apps and platforms have come a long way in improving their privacy measures, especially where students are involved, but is it enough to convince schools that it’s worth the potential risk? Student data is invaluable within the classroom walls, but can teachers feel safe that that is where the information will stay when they use edtech apps?

There’s no right or wrong side of this debate. Educational technology has its plusses and minuses. It’s up to teachers, administrators, and district personnel to decide whether the good outweighs the bad. We’d love to hear where you stand on these issues.

15 Comments

  1. Ron Abate

    May 1, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    The advent of cloud computing has resulted in a significant drop in the cost of laptops; a 1:1 distribution is much more likely in many school districts. Another challenge is the integration of technology into K-12 pedagogy. Ongoing professional development is essential if this goal is to be realized.

  2. Assignment Writer

    May 2, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    I totally agree!

    Technology and its uses are varied and relevant depending on the requirements as well as context.

    Thanks for the post. :)

  3. Taylor Bennett

    May 3, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    Ms. Ronan,

    While I agree that technology in the classroom has its pros and cons, I see there are more pros. Many educators that I work with are scared of the implementation of technology in the classroom. Perhaps it is because of the cons.

    As a Kindergarten teacher in a high poverty school, technology is detrimental to my students’ learning. It allows me to differentiate instruction, teach to different modalities, and give students access to information they would not normally be able to have access to. The majority of the lesson I teach, whether it is literacy or math, I incorporate technology in some way.

    Are there any particular tools/resources that you find more effective in the classroom?

  4. Savanna Haddock

    May 24, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I completely agree with this blog! Technology can be GREAT in a classroom for so many reasons. It gives different ways to learn and access information, and more fun and active ways to get engaged. It gives differentiated instruction by giving the students who don’t learn as quickly in lecture time, a different and more confident way of learning. This also helps gives new information with special needs and ways to gain their cognitive and language development. It is also true that technology could be a bad influence in the classroom by giving too much time in front of a computer screen and replacing the teacher. I think that could become a problem in the future and end up having a shortage of teachers due to the high volume of new technological resources.

  5. Robert Bulmer

    May 30, 2016 at 6:32 am

    What a great article.

    Technology is a wonderful assistant to teacher/parent led learning. It however can be misused if not guided.

    Young people today, for the most part, do not know how to so simple math in their head, write legibly or recall history in a meaningful fashion. The computer gives then access to facts without a passion for circumstance.

  6. luc lalaina

    May 31, 2016 at 12:27 am

    students may be distracted by the use of technology at scool so it should be banned

    • Felix Jacomino

      June 5, 2016 at 7:42 am

      According to that argument, we should ban windows at schools. Students can be distracted by rain, a bird flying by, the sound of cars passing by, etc. While we’re banning, let’s do away with pencils since there have been reports of students using them to draw inappropriate pictures, write ugly statements about teachers, and stab other students. Other things that should be banned are comments on educational articles that lack capitalization and punctuation.
      Now that I’ve gotten my knee-jerk sarcastic remark out of the way, I would like to ask Luc if he stopped to consider that technology is everywhere outside of school now and will be part of these students’ future at their jobs. Is a school’s role not to prepare students for their future?

  7. Felix Jacomino

    June 5, 2016 at 7:23 am

    Replacing teachers: The only teachers that will be replaced will be those who only do what tech can. As written in this article, tech can “deliver content, assesses, and set students on a new course of learning, all without teacher intervention.” That was acceptable in the 19th and 20th centuries. Not any more. The teacher’s role has shifted to being that “deliverer of content” to being the professional adult in the room whose job it is to stoke creativity in the students, ask questions that should trigger deeper questions, solve problems that require human thought, not computer data.

    Distracting: Absolutely. But only IF the teacher is not in control and believes he can continue to teach old ways with new tools. Partaking in quality professional development and a having personal commitment to continually innovate one’s profession is quickly becoming a necessity… which makes this the most exciting time to be a teacher!

    Easier to access others’ work: Simple. Stop asking “Googleable” questions and shift to an inquiry-based learning model that looks like what I wrote in the first paragraph.

    Disparity of access outside of class: True and unfortunate. Educators should keep this in mind when engaging in political decisions. My hope is that most teachers are doing what they can to support society’s move towards being a fully equitable environment.

    Privacy: Here is where we must have incredibly talented, law-minded professionals whose job it is to advocate for and represent minors to ensure their privacy is not being compromised in any way. This is the most valid point of the cons presented in this article.

  8. What a great article.
    Technology is a platform essential and useful in the teaching and learning environment. Teachers need to provide the necessary information and guidance to enhance effective use of technology. Embracing technology in the whole scenario is the best approach in teaching and learning.

  9. groovy essays uk

    June 8, 2016 at 10:55 pm

    The proliferation of social media and technology has changed the way educators teach, how students learn, and the way teachers and students communicate.

  10. francis chege

    June 16, 2016 at 6:07 am

    very interesting our country just gave laptops to kids and this should be interesting to see how it will go

  11. Cyrus

    June 18, 2016 at 3:05 am

    Technology is good but it encourage laziness to many students

  12. Esther

    June 24, 2016 at 2:06 am

    This is a good debate. Technology in the classroom though would just a flat outright NO for me. I feel like the cons have more weight than the pros.

  13. Gabu

    June 26, 2016 at 2:09 am

    The world is evolving with technology and sooner we might end up having classrooms without teachers. Technology at its best!

  14. Karen

    July 12, 2016 at 3:59 am

    Thanks for a post! I totally agree with all your points.