Device misuse

Technology in the classroom results in widespread distraction

In many cases, artificial light acts as a seductress, putting device users into a trance that is not easily broken. Like the Sirens, whose carnal invitations beckoned the crew of Odysseus, technology sings a sweet song that is nearly impossible to resist. While a school textbook might be begging for a student’s undivided attention, a friendly and more entertaining option looms close by, one that magically washes all current problems away: an iPad, so innocently waiting to be played.

Two years ago, the BOLD Program was instituted at Minnehaha, fully immersing the students and faculty in a world of technology. Each student was required to purchase an iPad-like device for use; by incorporating technology, faculty hoped that students would have access to advanced learning techniques and become more efficient workers. Although technology dramatically accelerated the rate at which many things were done in the classroom, it also created a potent setback: students don’t always use devices for schoolwork.

“I see a lot of device misuse, the BOLD Program is rather ineffective in my eyes,” said junior Alex Fedje-Johnson. “For the most part, I see iPads being used for online shopping and games.” Fedje-Johnson reflects upon an extensive problem in the Minnehaha community: the opportunity to use technology in the classroom that has resulted in privilege abuse. Teachers are forced to cope with the unavoidable truth that although devices in the classroom have their ups, they also have serious downs.

The process of incorporating technology into the classroom requires a quite a bit of effort from students. The BOLD Program not only puts iPads in each student’s hands, but also challenges them to grow up; maturity and self-control not only play a major role in the effectiveness of the Program, but also profoundly influence the character-building of individuals.

Depleting the use of technology in high school will not shelter students from the future–computers, laptops, and mobile devices are widely used in the professional world. This concept of misuse can be simplified to a matter of basic responsibility, When will you learn to control yourself and actually work? If not in school, then when?

“It’s a self-discipline issue from the student side of things,” said Sam Meyers, physics teacher and Academic Tech Integration specialist at Minnehaha. “As we include technology more and more, is the school making students misuse their iPads, are the teachers forcing them to? No. It’s a choice, and the students choose to do that.”

In March, Meyers won an award for the “Digital Citizenship” program he developed at Minnehaha Academy (see brief on left). This program establishes guidelines for the use of technology by students, teachers and parents.

While Minnehaha continues to diversify classroom learning in the form of technology, students understand the practical functions of iPads, but continue to see them being poorly used. “I see lots of people playing games on iPads and it’s just distracting,” said freshman Jordan Gray. “I also see misuses of social media a lot during school; it’s not necessary.”

To limit student distraction, it is recommended that teachers add technology to their individual curriculums incrementally, starting with a little, and building up. The Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition (SAMR) model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, displays a step by step process to help guide the inclusion of technology within a classroom (see graphic).

Teachers begin with a simple first step, substitution. “So you start off with simple substitution: you’re substituting technology for the paper,” explained Meyers. “Next comes augmentation, which is things like Google Drive, where you start to increase the organization but you’re not really coming up with anything new.”

“Those are the easy things; then you get to the harder things to plan for like the next step, modification,” said Meyers. “This brings you to the point of ‘How are you going to modify actually what you are going to do in the classroom based on the technology? How is technology going to redefine your class?’”

After technology has been incorporated in the form of substitution and augmentation, schools may feel like the jump must be made immediately to the next step of modification, but this is not the case.

“Unfortunately, it’s a big misconception that infusing technology is a ladder, and it’s not, it’s not a progression,” he said. “There’s a time and a place for each of those things, if a teacher tries to redefine or modify everything in their class based on the technology, they’re going to drive themselves insane, it takes a lot of time.”

In order to reach the final stages of the SAMR model, schools must take an inverse approach to technology use, and instead of radically changing curriculum based on new technology, should incorporate technology and devices at an appropriate level. According to Puentedura, creator of the model, computer technology should become more important in the classroom but at the same time becomes more invisibly woven into the demands of good teaching and learning.

When both students and teachers take initiative and responsibility working to cut down on distractions, a new world of learning can be found, “If we want to know the result of a research question, you can look it up just like that,” said Carmella Whaley, chemistry and biology teacher at Minnehaha. “Somebody says, ‘How do I convert ml to oz?’ Just like that you could find the answer. The ability to find pertinent information quickly has made aspects of classes more efficient, depending on the appropriate use of that information.”

Integrating technology in the classroom has, in fact, transformed education in recent years. Teachers and students alike find themselves constantly staring at display of possible productivity in the form of a computer, iPad or whatever it may be. Staying on task, however, is not always easy. To keep from falling subject to the more inviting ways of technology, do something like Odysseus and his crew did when tempted––stuff your ears with wax or tie yourself down. Interpret these strategies in a way accustom to your learning habits, and create methods to help fend off technological distractions.

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About Kenny Kiratli

Kenny Kiratli ('17) attends Northwestern University.

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