The COVID-19 pandemic has made technology more pertinent than ever to education, but electronics and digitization started permeating the classroom in a tangible way long before the year 2020.

In this technology-dominated world—which is likely remain on the same course even post-pandemic—student learning is affected by digital information, electronic devices, and technological solutions both in and out of the classroom. The outcomes of this pervasive reality encompass both a variety of advantages and disadvantages to students, particularly in younger grades.

Positive Effects of Integrating Technology into Classrooms

In many ways, technology unlocks a door for students, giving them access to an expanding world of innovation and potential. Here is a look at how classrooms are positively impacted by the integration of computers and information technology:

1. Access to High-Quality, Up-to-Date Information

The Internet is a powerful tool, giving learners of all ages access to information on every topic imaginable. With just a laptop, computer, or mobile device, students can search archives filled with documents, images, and videos from reputable sources. In a classroom setting, educators can direct their students toward trusted sources and show them various research methods that vastly improve their knowledge on a breadth of subjects. Students not only benefit from historical data, but they can also find new information as it emerges.

 2. New Forms of Student Engagement

Children of this generation are familiar with technology and accustomed to having it around. When leveraged correctly, technology gives teachers a means to interact with students in a way that meets them where they’re at. You can use online polling to get responses from normally reserved students or take your class on a virtual tour of Scandinavia when learning about the Vikings. You can host virtual forums or play online educational games. Although this type of interaction may look different from the engagement traditionally seen in classrooms, it can still be meaningful and productive.

3. Remote Learning Opportunities

Technology also gives children the opportunity to learn anytime, anywhere, which is helpful during unexpected and emergency situations, as we’ve seen with COVID-19. Via virtual classrooms and online platforms, students can work on homework assignments, watch videos posted by their teachers, and collaborate with their peers on assignments—all from the comfort of their home, a parent’s place of employment, or other remote location.

4. Building Virtual Communities

Technology also enables people to connect with others in their school community. Through a private social network, parents can receive news, announcements, and even emergency alerts. They can communicate publicly and privately with teachers, administrators, coaches, and fellow parents and guardians. With social media, you can create a designated virtual space for people who are connected in real life in a meaningful way, such as through a school or daycare center.

Negative Impacts of Technology in the Classroom

Although technology has an overwhelmingly positive impact on student learning and the ability for community members to connect and collaborate, there are also a few disadvantages, or rather challenges, to contend with in a classroom setting. As an educator or guardian, here are a few potential pitfalls to watch out for:

1. Building Another Barrier

Technology has the potential to either bolster equity among students or undermine it. While limitless knowledge and digital information is out there for students to consume, their ability to do so relies on consistent access to an electronic device and Internet service. If you want to use technology in your classroom or encourage your students to use it at home, you have to make sure every student is given the tools the need to do so, or you could potentially create another barrier for certain children.

2. An Opportunity for Distraction and Bullying

Online platforms have created another space where students exhibit disrespectful, inappropriate, or even cruel behavior toward one another. The more children use technology, the more opportunity they have to engage in or be the victims of cyberbullying. Another major issue is that mobile devices and even computers designated for educational activities can distract students. In order to deal with these challenges, you have to enact appropriate restrictive measures and monitoring of online platforms used by students.

3. Stunting Social Skills

When technology is present, students have less of a need to interact and verbally communicate with their teachers and peers. Empirically, this negatively impacts the development of social and emotional skills in children. While it’s a good thing for students to learn how to navigate various forms of digital communication, technology-based activities should be balanced with oral presentations, group work, and other exercises that require students to engage with one another face to face.

In part two of this series, we will further explore how technology fits into an educational paradigm that emphasizes social-emotional learning (SEL), particularly from kindergarten through eighth grade, and how that illustrates the need for technology to be integrated and implanted correctly to maximize potential and fuel academic success.