Balancing the Use of 21st Century Educational Technology with Real Life Experience in the Classroom

Balancing the Use of 21st Century Educational Technology with Real Life Experience in the Classroom

A colleague and I had the pleasure to attend an enlightening technology training session by Dr. Tim Perry in Knoxville, Tennessee on April 30th, 2013, titled “Technology- the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” 

Educators will agree that technology offers 

many fabulous resources for use in the 21st Century classroom, but Dr. Perry pointed out some very important aspects of children’s brain development that must be taken in consideration when implementing technology in the classroom. While many would agree that instant access to information is a positive aspect of technology, students are often satisfied with the first answer provided to their questions, which could lead to a decline in creativity.

First, there is a definite danger of addiction to electronic devices. Some of Dr. Perry’s patients began sweating profusely after only seven minutes of being deprived of their cell phones. After 15 minutes, some of the clients could no longer handle being without their devices and stormed out of the room to retrieve them, so they could check who had texted them.  This addictive behavior explains why some of our students would rather get suspended for three days than hand over their cell phones to a teacher. Students seem to be in constant contact with others while we are teaching them and get very upset when they don’t get an instant response. Many parents now feel the need to stay in contact with their children throughout the school day, expecting instant responses to their texts. Not only does the constant contact with others outside of the classroom cause tremendous stress in the students, it is detrimental to student learning.

Second, in order for a child’s brain to develop properly, a child must experience touch, movement and human contact.  Consequently, the practice of depriving a child of participating in recess as a punishment is clearly counterproductive. The 21st Century students must be given plenty of opportunities to run and play, touch things and experience real life, communicating with other humans, rather than spending excessive time in a virtual online environment.  I remember a speaker at the 2010 P-16 Summit on Teaching with Technology in Cleveland, Tennessee, talking about how her granddaughter enjoyed the Cookie Maker App. My comment to that would have been that this child would have probably rather enjoyed baking real cookies with her grandmother and tasting them fresh out of the oven.

Third, the excessive use of technology by our students is clearly stifling their creativity. Satisfied with one of the first answers provided by their Google searches, they no longer question the results and are not likely to seek more creative answers or solutions. I noticed a definite decline in creativity in my advanced Spanish class this year. The first time I gave my students the opportunity to create an animated video on , I was absolutely dismayed at the lack of creative ideas by my advanced class. Finally it occurred to me that the three most creative students from last year’s group had not moved up to my Spanish III class. Consequently, my most creative thinkers were sorely missed. One of those students had not been allowed to watch television during her entire childhood and had only just recently been provided with a cell phone. This student’s ideas astounded my class last year and were more often than not quite comical.

Clearly, the 21st Century classroom will include a large technology component, but the teachers may be well advised to consider child brain development as they plan their lessons. In my classes I am using an electronic textbook, which includes many online workbook activities, masteries and quizzes. I always include real life activities in my lessons, where students interact with each other and are given the opportunity to develop and demonstrate creativity. For example, my Spanish III students’ Chapter I was about food and food preparation vocabulary. While completing the book work, they also were given the opportunity to create their own cut out food plate, based on sound nutritional values. In addition, they created an informational video on healthy food choices, and finally even created original new recipes, which they cooked for the class to share in the home economics classroom.

21st Century teachers must balance the use of educational technology in their classroom with real life experiences, considering child brain development evidence in creating their lessons. Technology has its place in the classroom, but children must be provided the opportunity each day to interact with others, move around freely and touch real things, rather than spending their school days solely in a virtual environment.

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About the Author
Author: Ruth ValleWebsite:
I am a high school and college Spanish instructor in the East Tennessee area. I am also co-CEO of Ed-Pro Consultants. We are a group of teachers who present webinars on current trends in technology. I was named 2012 Monroe County Teacher of the Year and received the 2014 Hiwassee College Dual Enrollment Innovative Teaching Award.

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