There seems to be a strange dichotomy in education and learning these days, and it revolves around tech. Does technology help learning or hinder it? You find opinions on both sides of the issue. And there is evidence to support both sides as well.
There are many studies showing the benefits of tech for learning. Self-paced tutorials can help lower achievers. Distance learning classes can provide a much needed diversity of learning options for those who can handle the independent nature of the classes. And, then there are games and simulations that we know are very popular with learners and can provide a much needed motivational boost. But on the flip side, technology can be a distraction. People are spending large amounts of time on their devices. This is taking away from their time spent reading, from doing home-work, from learning in general. So what is the answer?
I believe there is an answer. It is this: Discourage technology use for children, but embrace it for adults. Children and adults learn differently, but their learning experiences have always been the same. Both children and adults have primarily attended classroom instruction, completed standardized curriculums, and taken tests. This has been a successful method for children, but not for adults. In fact we currently have a crisis with adult learning. We have many young adults, not going to college and also not working. They seem to be stuck in “second gear.”
These people need a different approach. And technology can provide that approach. It can truly individualize learning. What if young adults could take post-secondary education that is tailored just for them. For those not wanting to pursue a standardized college curriculum, they do work on a computer. Some of their work could be done with tutorials, and some could be done in distance learning courses of their own choosing. They could plan this learning alongside the needs of an employer so as to receive mutually beneficial skills that an employer also needs. And possibly the learning could even be paid for by the employer.
On the flip side, I really want to keep primary education as it always has been. I like for my kids to learn from a teacher, in a classroom with other students. It would sadden me if they were staring at a device all day — if their experiences with nature happened through a computer simulation instead of the real thing. I want my kids to be outside, looking at bugs, and flowers, and not on a device. Let’s think about it. We can have a grand bargain. Restrict technology use in children, but embrace it for adults.
It could be a win-win. We just need to have the will to try it.