By Allison Nadler, SED 2017
Technology consumes our lives. We are constantly on our phones to check emails, texts, Facebook… the list could go on forever. I’ve even heard people say that they feel empty and lost when they forget their phones. Supposedly, people are missing out on what’s right in front of them and are forgetting how to have a “normal” conversation because of technology. Strict rules are created at schools to prevent students from using their phones until the end of the day and parents complain that they never see their kids anymore because they are always on the Internet or texting a friend. While all of these opinions seem to be putting technology under a bad light, my experiences at Boston University allowed me to see the opposite.
Last year, I had the privilege of chaperoning a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. I led a group of nine students around the museum as they analyzed artwork and recorded interesting facts on their worksheets. All the students seemed to be enjoying the cultural environment and making sure they filled out assignments. But as they day progressed, the students looked tired and they started to sit on the couches and avoid the exhibits. One student said something that really stuck with me. I overheard her mention to her friend, “why should I waste my time wandering around the museum filling out this worksheet, when I can just look up all the answers online later?” Her friend agreed and the two of them proceeded to sit on a couch and check Facebook on their phones. My first reaction was that these girls were being disrespectful to and unappreciative of the art around them, but then I had a different interpretation of the situation. Of course this is what these girls thought; they spend every moment online expecting immediate answers, why should they spend six minutes finding the painting, two minutes searching for the answer, one minute reading the answer, and two minutes copying it down on the worksheet, only to forget it in four minutes once they begin to search for the next piece of artwork listed on the assignment. It made perfect sense.
As a student in the School of Education, I have the privilege of going to many different schools and classrooms in and around Boston. So far, I have only been to elementary schools, but at these schools I am able to see how technology is used during the day. Most of the classrooms I’ve seen have SmartBoards, projectors, and iPads. SmartBoards are used to watch educational YouTube videos, play interactive games, and help students practice their handwriting. Projectors allow teachers to read a book aloud to the class, while showing them the pictures the whole time. The apps on iPads are perfect for teaching math and writing skills. Educational technology is clearly promoted in the classroom. Additionally, teachers are constantly encouraging their students to learn about the world around them; but from what I’ve noticed, seeing the world means using interactive maps online to find the Eiffel Tower, Googling an image of the Mona Lisa, and discovering new information on Wikipedia. While this is not the most conventional way to absorb information, it is the most instantaneous; and students today seem to want instantaneous results.
So, is it really so bad that the girls at the museum wanted to research the paintings at home? On the Internet they will find endless information about the artist and the location in which the painting was created in just a few clicks, but instead they were limited to the four-sentence description on the small plaque to the right of the artwork. Yes, using a phone during class to send texts or post pictures does not allow students to focus on important material, but using an iPhone during class to define an unknown word, figure out the chronology of historical events, and look up a complex mathematical formula definitely adds to the learning experience. When technology is used for educational purposes, it expands the options students have for learning. As a teacher during such an advanced time period, it will be very difficult to help students recognize when it is appropriate to use technology for academic purposes and when it is not.
Allison Nadler is a sophomore in the School of Education, majoring in Special Education.