Our formative years build the basis on which our success in life will be determined. These formative years also provide us with basic life skills such as reading, writing, calculating, and communicating effectively. Every parent needs to ensure that their child gets the best education possible during this period to ensure that they succeed in life.
However, with the world turning to tech for almost everything and tablets, smartphones, and digital learning aids on the rise for children as young as 5, should parents be concerned about enhanced screen time and its impact on learning? Let’s find out.
Learning methodologies in children
Children learn in many different ways. These learnings are visual, auditory, or sensory. Children also learn at their own pace, regardless of the pace their class is going at. Digital devices take advantage of this and offer learners the capability to learn at their own pace and not try to match the rate of instruction of their teacher. This also encourages little children to understand self-learning better. Children with disabilities such as dyslexia and autism can be helped by apps to develop social skills and make progress at their own pace without public scrutiny or being subjected to ridicule or judgment.
Understanding the impact of self-learning for very young children first-hand
To put things into perspective, I visited a school as a part of an outreach program where parents of prospective students could see how their children will learn in a new, technology-focused school. I visited multiple classes including the first grade. Here, most of the 6-year-olds were learning how to solve mathematical problems on tablets.
One of the students here grabbed my attention—he was trying to add 9 and 2. The instructions on the screen were prompting him to “combine” 9 and 2. He was pressing the listen button repeatedly but was not able to understand what to do. On helping him understand that combine meant to add, he quickly chose the right answer.
Another example was a student who was trying to solve a question that stated: “What number comes before 17?”. He was constantly trying the numbers on the screen but was unable to understand what to do. On asking him if he knew what came before 7, he “guessed” 8. When I explained that before means what comes first with an example, he quickly answered the question correctly.
As I walked back to the first student, I saw him doodling on the iPad instead of answering the next question on the screen. On asking him why was he not answering the question, he said that he was more interested in a game.
Interaction with the staff
The school I visited was a popular, upscale technology-first primary school close to my home. They take great pride in their one device per child approach and that technology helped students of all ages to perform better. I then proceeded to interact with a group of teachers. On asking them if they were sure about the outcome of using digital devices for children, they replied that they were—however, on telling them what the situation actually was, they quickly blamed it on the fact that the devices were distracting and that they should have limited number of apps.
What these teachers or the school did not consider is that children have a very limited attention span. They quickly get bored and move to other, more stimulating activities if one seems to be monotonous. In a research done by OECD about the impact of technology use in children related to cognition and well-being, they stated that “students relying on digital devices do much worse in most learning outcomes regardless of social backgrounds and student demographics”.
So do apps and digital devices help students? Here are our inferences from the observations gathered during our visits to these institutions.
Advantages of using apps in education
There are many advantages to using apps in a classroom situation. Apps can help learners to use innovative methods to learn topics they usually find boring and even enhance their learning experience.
Children love using mobile devices and apps. Due to the way apps are designed, they captivate the learner and keep them engaged without distractions. Contrary to traditional learning methodologies, educational apps are an amazing way to build interest in topics children might find boring.
Promoting self-learning is a good way to ensure that students become more independent. Apps can help students learn at their own pace, ensuring that they learn on their own accord and value self-study more than rote learning or instructor-led learning.
Accommodating those with special needs
Students with learning disabilities learn at a different pace compared to others. They might be slower or faster than others in few topics and a traditional classroom environment might not be conducive to their learning requirements.
Future-proofing learning aids
learning how to use computers, mobile devices, and other communication equipment is a life skill. Depriving children of using such learning aids might be counterproductive.
Assistive tools for teachers
Teachers can use interactive elements in mobile devices to make learning a fun, interesting experience. This also helps teachers to explore new avenues in teaching and change their approach to a subject.
Disadvantages of using apps in education
Although the advantages of using apps in education are well-known, there are many disadvantages to them too. There has been an ever-increasing number of developers, parents, and educators who have been concerned about the addictive and isolative nature of mobile devices being used in education. In fact. Larry Berger, the CEO of Amplify—a company that develops digitally enhanced programs for various subjects for primary school children stated that technology does not do a very good job of demonstrating how socially useful knowledge is. Technology can also be a drain on the aspect of community learning—when children learn together, they learn quicker than learning on their own.
Here are some top disadvantages of using apps in education:
Technology is good, but it is also distractive. Students today are smart enough to find backdoors in school systems to surf the web or play games instead of learning. With the internet becoming a big temptation and school IT infrastructure being shoddy in many places, students end up being online while they should be learning.
The emotional development of little children is as important as getting good grades. A non-human device cannot instill self-control or order in a classroom and students might learn a topic, but not how to play well amongst each other.
Overstimulation due to excessive screen time
Overstimulation caused by excessive time spent on the screen can disrupt sleeping patterns and cause emotional dysregulation. Screen time must be controlled to manage stress and mood swings in children. Increased stress and mood swings are often used as indicators of too much screen time in young children. The usage of education technology or EdTech in schools will contribute to the screen time children are exposed to in a day.
Decreased social interaction
Educational apps are mostly designed for use by individuals and not for group activities. This causes students to stay engrossed with themselves and not interact with other students in the class or school. This leads to developmental delays in social skills such as talking and interacting with others and may cause little children to become introverts.
Reduced emphasis on traditional teaching and learning skills
A near-total reliance on googling for answers has caused students to lose out on information search and analysis skills that help us to find the right text and interpret what is needed from it. What was inferred from an extempore speech by teachers is now the domain of to-the-point information provided by apps and programs. Additionally, spellings, grammar, and other automatically corrected errors lead to reduced reliance on comprehension and problem-solving skills.
Final thoughts – finding the balance
Although the benefits of using technology in schools cannot be ignored, teachers and learners must find a balance between traditional teaching methods and using technology for learning. As e-learning apps become more prevalent, they should be used to augment traditional teaching methods and not replace them. This will ensure that children learn how to interact, express, and communicate during a class rather than just staring at a screen to learn something new.
Additionally, schools must augment and enhance their IT infrastructure to ensure that students do not take advantage of minor lapses and loopholes and start spending time on the internet instead of studying.
Educational technology has evolved into a powerful tool that can be used to supercharge our existing teaching methodologies and ensure that our children have a brighter, better future to look forward to. With the skillful implementation of intuitive user interfaces, educational apps can be the perfect way to fill the gap between traditional classroom teaching and virtual classrooms.
If your school or educational institution is looking to develop an intuitive learning tool to augment the existing teaching facilities in place, look no further. With our extensive experience in developing world-class apps, we are the right development partner for your needs. Send us an email or fill the contact form to schedule a consultation with one of our experts today.