I recently presented a 90-minute workshop with three other members of my LLED block–Rae Theisen, Jesse North, and Eric Yingling–for one of our classes about Media Literacy. Our topic? The positive and negative effects of technology on literacy and learning among high school students. We chose this topic for several different reasons. Primarily, our LLED block this semester has been very technology-heavy and it seemed appropriate to delve into both the positive and negative effects in order to further develop what we’ve been studying in our classes. This is also incredibly relevant to us and teachers everywhere, as there’s no escaping technology, which has and will continue to be a large part of adolescent’s lives. Our group acknowledged that there are benefits and drawbacks of technology in the classroom, and we as teachers need to be as educated as possible in order to effectively incorporate technology rather than letting it become a stumbling block.
Prior to this project and this semester, in fact, I leaned towards feeling that many forms of technology are unnecessary distractions that cause adolescents more harm than good. Yet, as I researched and learned all semester, my biased, uneducated prior opinion changed. After having almost completed this semester, I now realize that technology can be used to enhance learning and engagement and can really be a helpful tool for English teachers. In this post, I will share some of the findings of my group and explain how they impacted me and can impact all educators.
Spell-check: Through our research we discovered that many students rely too heavily on spellcheck to correct their spelling, and as a result, have poor spelling skills. In the following video, a high school girl describes her spelling problems from dependency on spellcheck. It also addressed the problems that arise from text speak.
Other negative effects of technology on learning:
-Technology makes it easier to cheat and plagarize
-Decrease in critical thinking
-Decrease in analysis skills
-Decrease in imagination
-Don’t process as much during class, easily distracted
-Better note-taking skills
-Improved multi-tasking abilities
-Easier and faster access to information
-Faster typing skills
-Better visual skills
Are Digital Media Changing Language?
Is Technology Producing a Decline in Critical Thinking and Analysis?
Today Show clip:
Ultimately, the point of our presentation was not to determine if technology is good or bad. In my opinion, that questions is insignificant, because there’s no avoiding the fact that technology is a big part of life today. The question, then, is: How can we as educators effectively incorporate technology into our classrooms to minimalize the negative effects and enhance the positive effects?
-Sparknotes and other such sources: When I was in high school, most of my peers never read the novels assigned in our classes because they could easily and quickly read a plot summary, character analysis, and theme, symbol, and motif summary on Sparknotes. With this site and others like it so easily available, we can’t be surprised when kids don’t read books! This technology definitely has the potential to have a negative impact on student’s reading, writing, and critical thinking. As teachers, we need to be aware of sites like these and do what we can to minimize or eliminate the negative effects. My group found a great discussion forum on the English Companion Ning that discusses ways in which teachers deal with Sparknotes. Many of them incorporate the site into their classrooms, showing that Sparknotes could be used for good. Before reading this discussion, I had never thought about using Sparknotes in my class, but now I feel equipped with ideas and methods of combating the problem of Sparknotes and using it as a positive resource. Here’s the link to the conversation:
Texting/Digital Communication: One of the issues we discovered is the negative effect texting and instant-message language has on student’s writing capabilities. Our research shows that acronyms and abbreviations are slipping into student’s writing. Rather than using formal English when writing papers, many students use digital language, which includes things like:
-lower case ‘i’ rather than uppercase ‘I’
-b/c for because
-idk for i don’t know
-recurrent grammar issues
-Many, many more: http://www.aim.com/acronyms.adp
This phenomenon is happening whether we like it or not, so what can English teachers do about it? According to the NCTE article “Flipping the Switch: Code-Switching From Text Speak to Standard English” we can use our student’s knowledge of text speak to enhance their formal English. To do this, we can engage our students in translating text speak to formal English and help them better understand the difference between the two and when each is appropriate.
Where I stand
After this project, I have a much greater understanding of the issue of technology in the classroom. Instead of looking at it in terms of good or bad, we need to accept that technology is a part of life and work with it to give our students the best learning experience possible. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that I will base all of my lessons on technology, I will definitely incorporate technology instead of just avoiding it. This semester I’ve been introduced to Nings, blogs, Twitter, and iMovies. These are some tools that I can use in my classroom to improve engagement. To me, the most important thing is to be aware of the prevalence of technology and how it impacts adolescents. Staying knowledgeable about these issues will enable us to adapt and maintain a balance in our classrooms.