Where Imagination Outshines Memorization

Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say

By MATT RICHTEL, New York Times
Published: November 1, 2012

There is a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, according to two surveys of teachers being released on Thursday.

Hope Molina-Porter, an English teacher in Fullerton, Calif., worries that technology is deeply altering how students learn.

The researchers note that their findings represent the subjective views of teachers and should not be seen as definitive proof that widespread use of computers, phones and video games affects students’ capability to focus.

Even so, the researchers who performed the studies, as well as scholars who study technology’s impact on behavior and the brain, say the studies are significant because of the vantage points of teachers, who spend hours a day observing students.

The timing of the studies, from two well-regarded research organizations, appears to be coincidental.

One was conducted by the Pew Internet Project, a division of the Pew Research Centerthat focuses on technology-related research. The other comes from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that advises parents on media use by children. It was conducted by Vicky Rideout, a researcher who has previously shown that media use among children and teenagers ages 8 to 18 has grown so fast that they on average spend twice as much time with screens each year as they spend in school.

Teachers who were not involved in the surveys echoed their findings in interviews, saying they felt they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention.

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