Technology: Helpful or Harmful for Students?
New advancements in technology seem to roll out every week. Tablets and smartphones have taken the education world by storm, and laptops have become permanent paperweights in universities everywhere. Along with the gadgets themselves, the technology that provides wireless Internet access has dramatically improved, too. Now, students can be constantly connected to their studies, their professors and each other. While the use of personal technology has become second nature to most students, it’s still a relatively new addition to the field of academia. This has led many professors, deans and educators to question if it is truly helpful or harmful to the education process.
How Technology Helps Students
There are undeniable ways in which technology helps students. For example, students are able to be more flexible in their studies, easily access and share required information and communicate with their educators.
- Online Classes – One of the most noticeable effects of technology on education is the prevalence of online classes. Some classes are entirely online, while others are a mix of online study and traditional classroom time. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly rare to encounter a course that doesn’t have some aspect of the class online. For example, students can now pursue a health administration degree online without ever stepping foot in a classroom. This allows them to study at their own pace and on their own time. While there are still homework assignments and required exams, students are in greater control over when they are completed.
- Ability to Research – According to Education.com, the prevalence of technology and interconnectedness allows students to spend more time studying and researching. They are no longer limited to libraries and classroom hours. Instead, they can spend time reading through essays while they relax on the couch or stay up all night at their computer preparing for their thesis. Additionally, educators can track and assess the progress of students with the help of special programs that facilitate student-instructor communication.
- Instant Communication – Between smartphones, laptops and tablets, students can instantly communicate with almost anyone. This enables them to ask professors urgent questions about assignments or coordinate responsibilities when working with others on projects.
How Technology Harms Students
Pew Research Center recently conducted a survey that found that while technology can greatly help a student in her studies, it can also be harmful to her overall development in these following ways:
- Endless Distraction – It’s no secret that instantaneous Internet access has opened up students to distraction. Between news, social networking and video sites, the average connected student is always being pulled in different directions. According to a study performed by the College Board and the National Writing Project, 87 percent of university educators state that technology is creating a generation that is easily distracted and possesses short attention spans. The study stated that modern technology essentially conditions students to be distracted.
- Instant Communication – While this can be helpful to students, it can also be harmful. Students can discuss anything they wish, with anyone who wants to talk to them. This leads to interrupted studies.
- Affects Quality of Research – The Pew study found that the abundance of information has significantly altered the way students process material. Students have become unable to distinguish between content from reliable sources and sources that provide inaccurate information. During the course of the study, 47 percent of educators agreed that there should be a course on digital literacy to help correct this trend.
Final Ruling: Helpful or Harmful?
Many educators believe the use of modern technology is ultimately harmful to students. However, many are more optimistic, stating that by incorporating programs aimed at teaching students the true benefits of technology, it can be a great asset. Presently, it depends on the student’s self-discipline.
Brandon Edwardson is a contributing writer and master’s student in a health care administration program. He has found technology particularly helpful when it comes to looking for healthcare administration and management jobs.