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Many experts raise hell over the perilous influence that technology has on children and youngsters. It is crucified as a looming menace responsible for everything from street violence to learning impediments. What gets overlooked is the variety of ways in which technology can enrich learning processes and encourage kids to seek knowledge and go about it differently than the previous generations. Namely, as technology advances by leaps and bounds, our ability to share, access, and distribute information is taken to ever new heights.
Two sides of the coin
Just because most people prefer to watch funny cat videos and seek memes, does not mean that the internet is one big flashy show. What about a myriad of scholarly dissertations and up-to-date scientific information? What is true, though, is that the information is fragmented and that the way in which it is often presented shortens children’s attention spans. This is perhaps the inevitable byproduct of a digital revolution that has taken place.
On the other hand, the internet can help parents take advantage of private tutoring and help their children overcome learning problems. Furthermore, the open-source resources are gaining traction across the cyber multiverse and some high-profile institutions like Khan Academy are in the game for more than just money. This marks a seismic shift, which levels the playing field, rendering it accessible to people of all backgrounds and financial means.
Likewise, there is a host of online education platforms in the league of Coursera and Udacity. Even some of the most reputable universities around the world now offer online courses and issue real degrees for finishing them. Distance learning is no longer an anomaly and it should not be long until it starts becoming a norm. We already have access to video lectures, e-books, virtual conferences, and interactive discussion boards.
The problem with any available content is that children often take the good with the bad. The internet, though, has changed this situation somewhat because it puts the consumers in the driver’s seat. They navigate the highways and byways of the digital world using signs by the road or nothing more than a hunch. And it should not be overlooked that is up to parents to educate children and monitor how and when they use technology.
The internet is not the only scapegoat as TV traditionally fits that description. Indeed, a lot has been said about the content children consume today. However, most people do not realize that TV shows and movies often have complex, multi-layered storylines that interweave. Grasping such a matrix calls for undivided attention as well as strong cognitive capabilities. Thus, scientists have found that in moderation, TV watching can boost alertness and memory.
As for the video games, a growing body of research suggests that they actually challenge children to solve problems by forming hypotheses and testing them. They go through a dynamic process of trial and error, rethinking their approach and obtaining new knowledge. So, if handled the right way, they are a great asset to the learning arsenal. The issue is that the bulk of educational games are of poor quality according to standards of gamers, but that is the problem of insufficient investment.
Many rightfully argue that no amount of technology can replace the importance of one-on-one attention that educators provide. But, tech marvels are not here to make it obsolete. Virtual does not have to rule out traditional methods like homework, collaborative team projects, and exams. Like it or not, technology resonates with students and allows them to follow their preferred learning styles. It is estimated that between 60% and 80% of children are visual learners and what better medium to deliver great results than the digital environment?
There is much room for optimism. Many schools and universities have already implemented videos, graphs, and images as tools that supplement verbal learning components. They demonstrate that smart application can correct the deficiencies in primary and secondary education and bridge the gap between students and subject matter. The students become actively engaged with the material because they are comfortable with the way it is presented.
Active-learning techniques have already proven to be fruitful, and now it is time to push the boundaries even further. Today’s students have grown in fundamentally different conditions than their predecessors just 20 years ago. They are a generation of digital natives that interact with screens more often than with people. They are becoming members of a global community without setting foot outside their homes. So, just how does it make any sense to teach them using the same pedagogical methods that were utilized a century ago?
In this day and age, we have more tools and methods to improve learning outcomes than ever before. An immense ocean of information is at our fingertips, and we can seamlessly dive into it to learn in new, creative ways. Technology is not going anywhere. In fact, it is going to become even more entwined with all aspects of our reality and culture. So, we might as well make the most of it and let our children use it as a learning superweapon. Systems like the internet are neither good nor bad per se: It all comes down to how they are utilized and towards what ends.
I hope that you enjoyed this article and find it helpful for your future decisions about your children. Of course, if you find this article was helpful for you, please give it a thumbs up so that I know what to write about in future.