You probably are wondering about this post’s title and what ed tech has got to do with various careers in medicine.
We all understand that serious parent involvement is always a good thing for getting kids into medical school. But what might come as a surprise, is that the way students are learning during their K-12 years can significantly impact their capabilities later in life. Technology in particular is playing a large role in molding the way people think, as well as their ability to perform certain tasks.
The Bright Side of Tech in the Classroom
If you are a principal or district superintendant, you know that everyone is looking for ways to increase technology in the classroom. As wireless schools are becoming ubiquitous, the state of Maine and districts like Van Meter in Iowa are providing 1:1 computing where each student receives a laptop for all school work.
Others, are contemplating BYOD (bring your own device) where students are encouraged to use their personal laptops or other smart devices for school work.
Some schools are even introducing online gaming to help students learn about global issues and problem solve geo-political conflicts. Others use video games to induce kids to read and solve math problems.
Positive results and feedback are already helping fuel the ed tech trend. Districts in California are seeing grades improve after issuing iPads to middle-school students and of course students are raving about using technology they are so fluent in, for their education.
Now you might be a bit skeptical if tech is the real answer for improving education, but the following observations made by educators across the country are quite impressive:
- Students who are visual learners can access video content on any topic – enabling them to learn the material in a manner best suited for them
- Likewise, a student can submit an animated book report in place of a written one – enabling those with better graphics skills to show they read and understood the material
- Instructional videos on any topic are available for students to review as many times as they want, and at their own pace – thereby removing the stigma of not getting it the first time
- Students are more engaged as they are using technology, so much a part of their lives already, for mastering school material
- Students become more marketable for jobs, as gaining knowledge of “digital literacies” is becoming almost as important as the 3 R’s.
The Educational Costs of Tech in the Classroom
We have seen that technology has no doubt benefited many students. But as always, change, even for the better can come with a price tag.
According to UCLA researcher, Dr. Patricia Greenfield, while use of technology has improved visual intelligence, critical and abstract reasoning skills have declined. An information overload, available in links, video and endless search, contributes to an extreme form of multi-tasking that results in a shallow or superficial understanding of subject matter.
In addition, vocabulary can be negatively affected as video instruction replaces reading.
She also found that students with unrestricted access to the internet were distracted during classes and didn’t retain as much knowledge as students without access.
Despite these negative findings, there is a silver lining for some of them. For example, studies show that students who play video games and engage in other visual learning are likely to perform better at tasks such as surgery which require high-levels of visual intelligence. But again, despite their proficiency in manipulating medical equipment during surgery, they might not make the best diagnosticians, as that skill requires more abstract and analytical thinking.
Similarly, the intense multi-tasking online environment of chat, email and more can be ideal training for airplane pilots who need to contend with multiple control panels and screens to stay airborne. However, a career in law, where reading or writing contracts and rigorous analysis is standard fare, is better prepared for by a rich diet of reading and deep thinking activities.
Balance is the Best
In summary, schools want the best for their students. So while increasing the use of technology is important, if not essential, emphasis must be put on maintaining or improving standards in the basics like reading and math. And of course, parent involvement will be critical as ed tech goes mainstream, with parents helping smooth the transition, in any way they can.
That way, your students can become (among other great things) excellent surgeons and diagnosticians, improving themselves and humanity with the fruits of their rich education.