I've recently been perplexed by the fact that despite having access to a world of information at their fingertips via smart phones, many students today that I observe do not seem to be making any better progress than the students I had ten years ago. In fact, the average performance seems to be getting worse and not better. Is it just me? Am I just romanticizing the past...the 'good old days' when students actually talked to each at the break, had eye-contact and used body language to communicate?
It seems that there is evidence that this trend is reflected in general in schools in the 'developed' countries that have invested heavily into technology. In a recent report by the OECD on Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, students in schools that actually have less technology appear to outperform students whose schools provide more access to technology in the classroom.
Interestingly, Korea and Shanghai, the two countries cited in which schools offered less technology, had much better general digital infrastructure. The supposition is that young people in these countries are able to integrate technology much more seamlessly into their daily lives. Their actual level of digital literacy skills in these 'developing' countries are higher than students in countries which, although placing greater emphasis on technology in schools, had not provided the same level of technology in daily life.
There was a classic phrase going around in the 1990s, something to the effect that "computers won't replace teachers, but teacher who use computers will replace those that don't'. It seems now that this has been updated to "teachers who use technology to teach the same way but more effectively will be replaced by teachers who teach in new and different ways."
Perhaps this is a direction we as teachers need to explore a bit more--consider more ways to get students to use their technology out of class on tasks that will, without them actually realizing, develop their own digital literacy skills and collaborative learning. And in class, avoid the distraction of too much technology and provide opportunities for students to actually communicate face to face and work together to solve problems and come up with new and interesting solutions.