• Cypress Bay High School - Weston, FL
  • February 22, 2020

It is not uncommon to find students in the average high school or college classroom utilizing devices such as laptops, smartwatches, smartphones and tablets during educational instruction times. With increased prominence of technology in schools, students are given greater opportunities to collaborate with one another, explore new topics, help the environment and learn from peers, as well as other teachers around the globe.However, smart devices also give students the ability to access photos and other information without the teacher’s awareness. Unfortunately, this opportunity also brings about the potential for distraction during critical instructional time and the increased ease by which students can cheat.

In class, students can take notes, edit work and collaborate with others all on their devices, rather than the conventional pen and paper method. Applications like Google Docs and Google Drive allow individuals to share work that they complete online, promoting learning with and from others interested in the same area of study. In a research project conducted by EdTech focus on K-12 education, researcher Correy Murray found that 74 percent of teachers polled stated technology is critical in expanding on classroom content and motivating individuals. Resources such as Crash Course Youtube videos have proven beneficial in terms of instructing content that may have been missed, or even as a form of review for those looking to cram information. Additionally, 73 percent of those surveyed claimed that it helps teachers and their students respond to new learning styles. Students can pick up information they may have missed with the use of computer systems and reiterate upon material from class.

Not only are these enhanced learning opportunities advantageous in the learning process, students and teachers alike are also helping the environment, one printed handout at a time. According to a study conducted by edutopia.org, the average student uses 833 sheets of paper per school year, equating to approximately eight percent of a tree. When teachers make the executive decision to switch from paper tests, assignments and handouts to online resources, they are also significantly benefiting the environment. This same concept applies to the student as well. By taking paperless notes, one can save the planet while simultaneously keeping up with the times by following trends in electronics and technology.

While the benefits of collaboration and the positive environmental impact do prove helpful in many scenarios, the utilization of smart devices grants students increased cheating opportunities as well as potential distractions during class time. When teachers permit students to use their own personal laptops, for example, the instructor is unable to monitor the screen from their external device. Therefore, the students have the ability to open another tab and search for information that may not be permitted for the purpose of that assignment. In present day, many smartwatches have photo features, as well as cellular features, thus heightening the prospect for individuals to find means to seek external help during examination time. Although this challenge may be ever growing, the ultimate authority in the classroom lies in the hands of the teacher and through regulations such as “tech-free times” or policies like no smart devices during exams, students and teachers will be able to reach a fine balance.

In light of the benefits students, teachers and the environment can derive from accepting the increased availability of technology in schools, individuals should accept this resource and learn to work with it strategically for optimum success.