Digital technologies make information more accessible. Digital technologies dull our senses. Digital technologies are dangerous in the hands of our children. Digital technologies make life so much more convenient.
Digital technology is a controversial topic and it seems in the past few years, we’ve been bombarded with articles about it every day. The only thing that varies from article to article is whether the author or the interviewee is fighting for or against them. They usually back up their opinion with a scientific study which often comes in two forms – either those which support their theory or those that contradict it. We don’t want to bring down the quality or expertise of such studies, but they are limiting at the very least.
The difficulty of judging whether digital technologies are good for us or not lies in the very limited time period we’ve had for researching their effects. The technologies in question have not been here for a very long time and it’s therefore difficult to judge their influence on the development of individuals and on society as a whole.
Digital technologies have only been making a real impact on how we have been living for the last generation. We are still trying to find out how to use them in an efficient and beneficial way. Even though dead ends and wrong turns may come up from time to time, it doesn’t mean that the right way doesn’t exist or that we shouldn’t be looking for it.
Not only have these technologies become a part of our lives, they are also becoming more and more significant in education, an area where they are the most visible and therefore the most discussed. In an interview for the Czech newspaper “Lidové noviny”, the psychiatrist Manfred Spitzer said that “digital technologies have no, absolutely no positive effect on education, only many side effects”.
It’s easy, of course, to find negative effects of the use, or perhaps it’s better to say overuse, of technology, just as we can find the negative effects of many other conveniences of the modern era. But is there surely nothing positive about digital technologies?
We can easily come up with a couple of examples in teaching practice where advances in technology have definitely been beneficial. Let’s start with how it allows us to easily cater to an individual’s unique needs and makes it simpler to personalize teaching methods to the pupil. Another important plus is the possibility of adjusting the existing teaching materials to pupils with different levels of learning abilities. Also, thanks to these technologies, the level of participation of pupils in the learning process has risen.
In research carried out by Wilma Clark and Rosemary Luckin in 2013, they concluded that using iPads in the classroom led to increased motivation, enthusiasm, interest, engagement, independence, creativity, and productivity. Isn’t that our primary goal? To make pupils and students interested in learning?
What influences learning though is not the technology itself, but rather the way we use it. Teachers don’t have to be IT experts to use digital technologies efficiently and integrate them into their lessons. Teachers can use technologies such as a recording device as simple as a smartphone to capture various activities, chemistry experiments, or natural phenomena and replay them to the class for teaching purposes. They can create and share a digital portfolio and contribute to a closer connection and cooperation among the school, families, and the outside world. They can also use the sharing environment for quick access to teaching materials.
All these activities show that digital technologies are not just about apps and programmes, as we sometimes tend to think. Modern education – in order to be truly modern – should include as many various teaching methods, forms, and means as possible, making learning attractive and efficient and truly preparing children for their digital future. Digital technologies are not striving to replace the existing teaching practices, but they go hand in hand with them, complementing one another.
We also shouldn’t forget about the important role of digital technologies in the lives of people with various handicaps. It can serve as a communication tool for someone who has lost the ability to speak, as a compensation tool for people with various degrees of sight impairment, or as an adjustable and easy-to-operate tool for people with a limited ability to move. In all these cases (and many similar ones), technology raises the quality of life of their users, providing them with a higher level of independence.
Just like any other good intention, technologies can be understood in a wrong way, or even misused. There are, of course, potential risks and threats. But that is no different from any other field of human activity – opinions just do not differ that considerably in them. It is up to us to decide how we use the potential of digital technologies, if we use them for our own benefit and if we teach our children to approach them with a healthy attitude.
Yes, digital technologies bring risks and influence us; but their positive effect on our lives, knowledge, and education is undeniable. Using them in a meaningful way forms the basis of digital literacy in the modern era.