Is Technology Holding Students Back?

Is technology a panacea or a plague in the classroom? The honest answer is “neither”, but much of the focus on technology in the classroom has revolved around its benefits and ability to positively transform the learning experience. Educators, however, would be wise to approach the use of technology with a bit more caution. Numerous studies have linked technology use to developmental setbacks in children; for example, rampant tech use has been correlated with problems with impulse control and self-regulation. It seems that, sometimes, introducing technology in the classroom to help students grow does the exact opposite.


The New Role of Technology

Today, a day without tech being used in the classroom would be an unusual day indeed. In fact, according to a survey by Front Row Education, 75% of teachers say they use technology daily with their students. Tablets and laptops are now common in many classrooms. These devices can be loaded with education programs and apps for students, and using this kind of technology makes it easy for teachers to track student progress.

On the cutting edge of ed-tech you’ll find tools like virtual reality and 3D printing. By using virtual reality technology, like Google Glass, students can visit other locations without ever leaving their desks. These tools use 3D imagery to make the wearer feel like they’re exploring a realm in person. 3D printing also gives students opportunities to explore cutting-edge concepts in the classroom. Students can design objects on a computer and then “print” them out on a 3D printer, which uses plastic or other materials to create the object. These kinds of technologies may currently be cost prohibitive for many schools, but you’re likely to see them being adopted by classrooms in the coming years.

Technology Troubles

Using technology in the classroom comes with a host of benefits, from equipping teachers with tools to easily measure progress to arming students with new ways to explore the world around them. But, sometimes, tech seems to do more harm than good when it comes to helping students succeed.

For example, many students express discomfort with the use of predictive software in the classroom. This new software is used to identify students who are at risk of failing so that, presumably, the school can extend a helping hand. Students, however, are concerned with being labeled as struggling before they have a chance to succeed, and they wonder if that label will follow them throughout their academic careers. At a panel for EduCon2.9, students from Macomb Community College in Michigan argued that the use of predictive analytics reduces students to numbers and may be an invasion of privacy.

Another question educators must grapple with: Can too much tech interfere with student growth? Especially at the preschool age, kids develop their motor, sensory, and “life” skills, like learning to share, through free play. Yet educators at the preschool level are facing mounting pressure to create academic-focused, rather than exploratory, environments for children. Couple rigid academic schedules with technology that keeps students focused on a screen instead of the world around them, and you have a recipe for a host of cognitive and behavioral issues in kids down the line.

Educators must also be aware of “piling on” too much tech time. Many students already use technology frequently outside of the classroom, so class time can be a much-needed reprieve from screens. Limiting tech outside the classroom is often a tough task for parents, since many mobile games are designed to be addicting for users. The lure and breadth of social media is also hard for kids to ignore. Since too much tech use by adolescents has been linked to everything from shorter attention spans to higher risks for obesity, tech overload at home and at school can put students’ health in jeopardy.


Finding a Balance

The risks of technology use in schools doesn’t suggest that educators need to get rid of tech altogether. Since technology is now used in almost every job field, we would be doing students a disservice if we didn’t teach them how to properly use the tools their future livelihoods depend upon. It is necessary, however, to find the right balance by blending tech use with traditional teaching methods. For example, completing research projects becomes easier with access to the internet, but teachers must be wary of students who may copy from sources or navigate to Wikipedia in search of answers. Teaching traditional, book-based research skills first can lay a foundation for students that they can then apply online.

Seek out tools and resources that can help you find the right balance in the classroom. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Edmodo: This platform gives teachers safe tools to collaborate and share with students and parents. Teachers can assign homework and quizzes from the same platform, which gives them more control over their students’ online experience.
  • EdNET Insight: This website shares actionable insights on the intersection of education and technology, keeping educators abreast of trends and recent developments in the field.
  • SchoolTube: Modelled after sites like YouTube, SchoolTube creates a safe, moderated environment for students and teachers to post videos they’ve produced themselves.


  1. nmc

    March 26, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Technology is everywhere, entwined in almost every part of our lives. It affects how we shop, socialize, connect, play, and most importantly learn. With their great and increasing presence in our lives it only makes sense to have mobile technology in the classroom. If used correctly, will help prepare students for their future careers, which will inevitably include the use of wireless technology.It gives students the chance to interact with their classmates more by encouraging collaboration.Integrating technology in education everyday helps students stay engaged.

    • Jne

      March 27, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      I completely agree with you. Technology is in everyday life. It is important to find a balance. This was a question that was brought up in my grad class. A classmate of mine made the point that students using a discussion board are more comfortable to leave a response verses saying it in class. While saying the comment in class leads to presenting skills that student’s need, the discussion board can help the student gain confidence in their opinion before sharing.

  2. Tom McDonald

    March 31, 2017 at 7:52 am

    Interesting and correct that traditional education focuses on everything but why they exist; advancing sustained, student success ourtomes, FOR ALL their students. Lots of talk about education innovation, but very little relevant, correct implementation. From my experience there is no singular entity that that exists, that habitually can’t see the forest from the trees. Of course the focus needs to be on advancing student success outcomes for all students. How do you do this? By accessing, understanding, correctly implementing,the measuring outcomes with innovative, research proven, best practices, 21st century learning methodologies. Totally and completely replacing one size fits all teaching with teacher facilitated, educationally innovative software, added at the system level, delivered on any device that connects to the internet, facilitated in a blended, flipped, competency based, project based deep learning environment. Plus there needs to be less talk and more action.

  3. Maria

    April 2, 2017 at 10:10 am

    Hi Jonie,

    Thank you for sharing. As a teacher who uses technology almost daily in her classroom, I also wonder whether students use too much technology. I know that it is essential for us to teach our students how to use technology because like you said, their future livelihoods depend on it. I also know most of my students use it outside the classroom. To alleviate this concern, it is important for me that the time they spend using technology in the classroom is monitored, limited, meaningful and tied to the curriculum.


  4. sahil jangid

    April 8, 2017 at 2:53 am

    I always appreciate technology for education or education with technology. There are something all topics and modules of education who needs high-class technology. We are living and learning in the 21st century and it is essential to learn or study with the help of technology and get the profit of technology.

    In last I would thank joni for this wonderful information…….keep it joni sir.

  5. Madison

    April 16, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I found this to be an extremely interesting post as I often wonder about the long-term effects of technology. We are becoming very reliant on technology and I fear that students are lacking more traditional schooling experiences. Personally speaking, I still enjoy taking notes by hand (despite the easy access to laptops and tablets) and understand how students are uncomfortable using software in the classroom. I think it is especially important to find a balance and monopolize on available resources while controlling the time spent in front of technology. I really like the idea of teaching in a traditional method and then applying it online. Going forth with our research regarding technology, I think it will be interesting to see the long term benefits these methods (whether this is developmental setbacks or not). Thank you for sharing!!