Is Technology Keeping Us from Learning?

There are many debates today about whether technology is helping or hindering learning. Many school administrators want to be the first to adopt new technology because they feel their schools are being judged as inadequate if they don’t keep up with changing resources. But we have to ask the question, “Are they considering all of the options that can help students succeed?” When you consider the negatives of learning from a screen, as well as the cost of purchasing, maintaining and updating electronic devices, is this really the best approach to learning?

Based on a multi-country survey commissioned by Two Sides in September of 2011, we have qualified what we already believed…that many consumers (~70 percent), including 18- to 24-year-olds, prefer reading from paper. In fact, according to a study by O’Hara, K. and A. Sellen in 1997 called A Comparison of Reading Paper and On-line Documents, we may actually learn better from a book, newspaper or printed report than we do using a computer screen.

So why are we pushing so hard to get technology into the classroom?

According to an article in the Chronicle Herald on July 2, 2013, Peter Reiman and Anindito Aditomo of the University of Sydney recently conducted an analysis of the research literature about the impact of technology on student achievement. Their findings were published in the International Guide to Student Achievement (2013). They conclude that most studies show only a moderate academic benefit from technology and that “the effect of computer technology seems to be particularly small in studies that use either large samples or randomized control groups.”

What this tells us is that there are limited benefits to using technology in the classroom…at least in today’s world. Schools need to take a broader approach to improving learning by considering all options of the education process including the basics such as environment, experienced teachers, strong curriculum and all different forms of resources.

Phil has over 25 years of international experience related to sustainability and the forest products industry. He currently leads Two Sides North America, a non-profit that promotes the unique sustainable features of print and paper, as well as their responsible production and use. Two Sides operates globally in four continents with members that span the entire graphic communication value chain. Phil has written extensively on sustainability and environmental topics related to the forest products sector. He received his Bachelor and Master's of Science degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is a private forest owner and manages over 200 acres of forestland for both recreational and economic benefits.

Related Content
  • podprinter

    I definitely feel schools are jumping on the tech bandwagon! Anybody can learn the technology skills, what they need badly is how to reason! Textbooks are gone from my son’s school, so he gets b/w handouts to study from, in effect, they study for the test!

  • Brian Rothschild

    It’s a good debate. I think just like technology, people change too. I was always told "Go look it up", or, "Check the encyclopedia". Today is no different, it’s just faster. Now, I don’t even have to get up…I just tap a piece of glass, and say "Google…Define (whatever) and voila.

    So, I think the question is, "How d*mn lazy could you possibly be?."

  • John Conley

    As Phil discussed in his blog post, technology is becoming a huge part of education. Schools across the country are embracing the latest and greatest in technology to not only help children learn better, but to position the school as a leader in utilizing learning tools. As mentioned in the blog, many schools don’t take into consideration what technology will mean to the students learning from it. According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Reading, reading online may not be as effective or rewarding as the printed word. All signs point to print being able to peacefully coexist with digital in all facets of life. The path and timing of this mutual coexistence is still pretty unclear. Just ask the students, teachers and parents of the children in the LA Unified School District.
    There is very little doubt that new technologies are going to combine to provide a superior learning experience in the future than what just print provided in the past. What that new product will look like is still pretty unclear which is why watching what Pearson is doing in the LA Unified School District is so important. When all is said and done Print will still play a significant role. That role, like the educational materials, will just be different than the role print plays today.

    – John Conley, Vice President of Publishing, Xerox