School tech: help or hindrance?


Education and technology researcher, Kristy Goodwin, reveals the impact technology in the classroom is having on kids.

Classrooms across Australia are changing. Just as technology is integrated more and more into everyday life, so too is the case in schools.

In some schools students can nowadays be found coding, building robots, or using iPads to complete assignments.

But is this technology based approach actually good for them?

Kristy Goodwin, a former teacher, has studied the effect of technology on children’s learning.

One concerning issue for many is the huge rates of myopia among children - especially in Asian counties. Myopia is a condition of the eye where light focuses in front of, instead of on, the retina. This causes distant objects to be blurry while close objects appear normal.

Ben moved schools when his former school started integrating technology into the classroom more and more.
Ben moved schools when his former school started integrating technology into the classroom more and more.

Research showed that the premature introduction of screens, before the eye had time to develop, was a cause of the condition.

But rather than screens as the cause, an Australian study found myopia was caused due to a displacement effect.

“If our kids are spending huge amounts of time on screens, then they're often not getting time out in natural sunlight and natural sunlight is what the eye needs to develop,” Kristy says.

“When they're out in sunlight the eye produces dopamine and that stops the eye from elongating which in turn causes myopia.”

Another common complaint when it comes to kids and technology is the way screens can captivate and hijack their attention. Kristy says there are two main reasons as to why they find it so hard to digitally disconnect.

“Their brain actually releases the neurotransmitter dopamine. So looking at Snapchat, looking at Facebook, Instagram will give dopamine hits that no matter how competent and engaging and dynamic the teacher is, it's no match for what's going on, on the screen,” she says.

“The other neuro science is that we know that one of the difficulties … is that when we're online, particularly on our phones, we enter something called the state of insufficiency. We never, ever feel done. We never, ever feel complete.”

Kristy warns that we’re still in infancy when it comes to knowing what the long term impacts are.

“You know, the iPad has only just turned eight years old earlier this month so we don't have long term impact data.”

But what we do have, Kristy says, is evidence to suggest how technology can add value to a class, and when it’s unnecessary.

“You know if it's rote learning, drill and skill type activities that the kids are doing on the devices, then there's not necessarily value add," she says.

"If the device is being used in a way where children are creating digital content, so they're using it for digital creation, whether it be story telling or movie making or creating animations or coding, then there are obviously increased learning benefits.”

Insight explores the debate about the complexities and contradictions of technology’s role in the classroom. Screens at School, Tuesday 8.30pm, SBS and SBS On Demand.

Source SBS Insight