Times were better a decade ago when everything was taken with a breeze, people socialized on a regular basis and they wouldn’t stick to their mobile phones 24×7. Draw a comparison between the current times and that of a decade ago, the contrast will stand out as clearly as that between night and day. And not so surprisingly, our preference would be for the good old, much simpler times. Hence, in our eyes, the one factor which caused a change of this magnitude, so rapidly, stands to be the villain. And, not much to our surprise, that villain always is technology. Our mobile phones get constantly blamed for us not doing homework, not socializing much, reducing our attention span (Do they, though?) and everything that went wrong with the man since the times were much simpler. But is technology a modern day invention? No, right! It was born right when our good old ancestors figured out a way to produce fire by rubbing a couple of rocks against each other. Then what is this argument of simpler times about? Well, it is not much of an argument as it is a fallacy. Aptly named, Golden Age Fallacy is a positive bias towards earlier times. For instance, if people of our time preferred the times when writing letters and sending them through post was a norm, the people of those times would have preferred a time when the same letters would be carried over by a pigeon – this would carry on ad infinitum till you go back to the time of the earliest thoughtless forms of a simple cell floating around aimlessly. Digressions aside, the main question here is ‘can we reduce these concerns about technology to a mere fallacy?’ This question gains much weight, especially during this era of smart education and digital classrooms.
Let us start with the first main concern – Is too much screen time cutting down our attention span?
Attention span is described as the length of time for which a living being can concentrate on a particular subject or activity. If you are curious about the process of attention or are trying to figure out ways to defame technology, you might have come across a huge stack of articles saying that the human attention span which was ’12 seconds earlier, has worsened during the past few years to ‘8 seconds’, taking a dip lower than a gold fish’s ‘9-second’ attention span. All these articles have one thing in common in addition to their complaint on technology, and that is they all cite the same survey conducted on a Canadian sample of 2000 participants. A quick look at the nature of the study – a survey and sample size – 2000 people, are enough to raise doubts about this study. But it doesn’t end there. The primary source, according to many articles is a research report by the Microsoft team – A quick look at their report confirms that it was merely an infographic referring to a study by ‘statistic brain’, a website – Another quick look at the citation dates back to a paper published in 2008 with no proper data. The truth is that many studies on attention suffer from shortcomings such as failure in taking into account the task-dependent nature of attention. Like, haven’t you ever binge watched a TV series without missing even a minute? The true concern about technology though is its addictive nature. Many of us don’t even remember the last time we slept without staring at a phone for a while. It has become a major part of our lives which isn’t necessarily a very bad thing when gauged against how productive and clutter free it has made our lives over the years. It is however the way this technology is used that makes the difference. Thanks to the pandemic, the education sector is tech-dependent now more than ever, which means more dependency of students on technology and possible addiction to the same. But it shouldn’t necessarily be an unsolvable issue. So how do we solve it?
1) Introducing kids to games and apps which teach them conceptual knowledge of the subjects. For instance, Play and Learn Science is a wonderful resource to learn science while playing games while labster is an amazing app contributing its share towards immersive learning.
2) Making them use apps like pomodoro timer to make their learning more structured while giving them breaks for recreation
3) Teaching them to use mind maps to understand and retain new information effectively.
4) Encourage them to conduct their own research on different subjects on different learning platforms like youtube etc
5) Help them create learning content in their own unique way using different technological resources, helping them find and develop their own voice.
The onus, however, is on the teachers, school administrations and parents to act as facilitators for this change. The rapid advancement in the field of technology has made it much accessible to everyone. So, the focus must be on making a better use of technology with a target to achieve more delightful learning experiences and better learning outcomes. Few of the myriad ways to make the best of use of technology in the ed space are discussed as follows –
Blended Learning – Take technology into the classroom. Make use of powerpoint presentations, conceptual videos, animated infographics etc., to amplify the students’ learning experience. These won’t just inculcate conceptual thinking in students’ minds but owing to their animated quality, these also contribute towards giving an aesthetically pleasing experience. Certain old age rules never fail, one of them is – ‘Attractive things always work better’
Immersive Learning – Make use of audio-visual and 3D technologies to simulate concepts and indulge students in the lessons taught. This way they can relate to the concepts in a better way. Immersive learning has the potential to involve all kinds of learners if used correctly.
Asynchronous Learning – One of the highly efficient ways technology can be used is in giving access to all kinds of learning material to students in a storage platform or a learning management system. So that they can learn things whenever they want, and at their own pace. Asynchronous learning takes off the boundaries which usually limit the learning environment to the classroom and makes it omnipotent and independent.
Personalized Learning – 21st century has witnessed a change of focus in every field from being machine-centered to human-centered. The objective viewpoint has become less harsh to accommodate the individual differences and personal feelings of the human being. Ed-space has unlimited potential in making use of the technology to make the learning experience more personalized. Advanced technologies like AI and Machine Learning can be used to produce algorithms that can draw personalized learning paths based on the individual’s education level, the pace of learning, preferred style of learning, etc.
To sum up, the usage of technology is completely dependent on a human choice like everything else. While it is true that people tend to use it for not-so-appreciable purposes, a good mentor can change the way a pupil takes advantage of it.
Times have changed, we need to adapt too. Now, the stakeholders in education space such as schools and teachers should aim to use technology for better learning outcomes and making processes easier. Various initiatives and openness to use technology for better outcomes and growth is seen. Teachers and schools are collaborating and investing in using classroom apps for students and online classes for 8th graders, 9th graders and 10th graders.
Adaptability of technology in the right way is the key now.
Owing to the omnipotent nature of technology, it is impossible to even imagine a tech-less world. Hence, rather than being in total denial, one must equip themselves with tools to best exploit the tools of technology to make the ed-space much more pleasurable.