How Students Read Will Surprise You

Written by Kate Durocher

Forget taking notes with a pencil and notebook. Today’s students hardly know what a chalk board looks like. Reading information on paper might be considered laughable. The changes in the classroom have changed how students read and write.

Instructors present notes via PowerPoint and students record their thoughts via laptops. Even the boards at the front of the classroom can be digital. Long gone are the days where reading is taught by going around the room and having each student recite a sentence aloud. Ninety percent of teachers have at least one computer or laptop in their classrooms, while 60 percent have interactive whiteboards, and 35 percent have a tablet. Nearly 50 percent of teachers are using technology in their online lesson plans, while 45 percent use technology to give students access to web-based educational games or activities.

Technology is a driving force in classrooms, and most educators will agree that technology has made the lives of teachers and students more efficient. But does that efficiency come at a cost? Are today’s generation of learners speaking, writing, typing, and reading differently than those who came before them? The answer is yes, and whether this is good or bad is the real question.

According to Psychology Today and many other sources, when we use technology it rewires the brain. Constant use of technology intended to help us learn can actually cause distractions and memory loss. Even more alarmingly, today 60% of all U.S. 4th graders are not reading at their grade level. One theory is that this poor reading performance can be attributed to texting. Students send an average of 88 texts daily, causing them to become accustomed to auto-corrected spelling errors, and shortcuts such as LOL. Clearly, technology can negatively affect the learning of students.

What about the opposite view – how technology has advanced the lives of learners? From giving them unlimited access to the knowledge of scholars, mathematicians and authors through the web, to offering apps and extensions that can give students a hands on look at the world around them, tech isn’t all bad. For many teachers, it’s a question of balance.

“There’s so many things available to us in the technology. We’re using it for every lesson,” said teacher Shannon Baca at Walter White Elementary in Ceres, CA. “It’s still very important to have the writing. We don’t want to lose that skill,” Baca said. “It’s a learning curve. It’s a balance of using tech effectively while still fostering skills essential to life, like writing and reading.”

Many Google Chrome extensions, for example, help teachers use tech as a positive tool to progress learning within the classroom. Stackup allows teachers to track students’ reading online. Students can get recognition and credit for their independent reading in 60 categories. Google Classroom lets teachers distribute assignments and monitor students, Google Expeditions, takes students inside virtual field trips and Kaizena works as a tool for teachers to give students feedback.

With the use of apps like those, the benefits of tech can far outweigh the negatives. In fact, there is substantial evidence that the use of technology in education can help students succeed. For example, one study on the use of iPads in education showed that kindergarteners with access to iPads during the school day “scored much higher on literacy tests than students that didn’t use the device.” Another study on knowledge retention showed that students who were asked to give a presentation on something they were taught were more likely to retain that information.

The positive impact of technology hasn’t only been seen in literacy, though. A 2004 study found “a statistically significant increase in math achievement scores when students used digital video,” while others “[suggest] that technology can have a positive impact on the self-esteem of students, especially for at-risk students with low self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Technology will only continue its reach into education, and into classrooms. While it’s undeniable that the addiction and shortcuts that come with technology can be harmful, when used as a tool to further advance learning, technology can do a lot of good.

About the Author.
Kate Durocher is a TV host, writer and editor living in Los Angeles. She is the Press Outreach Manager for Red Cup Agency and also works in editorial for L.A. Weekly. Kate often writes articles about education in support of Stackup. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 2015 with a degree in broadcast and digital journalism.