The Perks & Pitfalls of EdTech [A Student’s Perspective]

By: Mihir Trivedi

Growing up in the Silicon Valley, technology has always been a part of my life — inside the classroom and out. As a rising junior, I’ve seen technology used as a tool in the classroom over the years: sometimes effectively and sometimes ineffectively. The challenges and hurdles of technology have often caused debate in the technology and education communities. The problems and potential solutions can be observed in three different groups: students, administration, and teachers.

Students

Students love technology. Technology (more specifically, the internet), gives students the ability to research information and learn beyond what is available in the classroom very quickly. The internet can also serve as a tool for distraction, in the form of non-educational games and websites. The term “Cyberslacking” has often been used to explain this use of technology for non-educational purposes. Overall, students know how to use technology — both effectively and ineffectively. It is important that students are taught and held accountable for appropriate use of technology.

School Administration and Infrastructure

Throughout both middle school and high school, I’ve seen different school administrations handle the issue (or solution) of technology in the classroom quite differently. In middle school, the idea of technology in the classroom was considered taboo — computers were to be used once a week during the programming class. However, I found a stark contrast and different set of challenges in high school. Our high school provided us with a 1-to-1 iPad program, in which each student received an iPad to facilitate their learning. Having 1600 students with Wi-Fi enabled Internet-hungry machines, however, means you need expensive Wi-Fi routers and lots of bandwidth. The administration and IT installed a new set of routers and on-campus servers to be able to handle the load of 1600+ students downloading, uploading, and streaming on a network. The key benefit of a 1:1 program, as a student, is that such a program creates a baseline level of technology for all students — making communication and collaboration more simple and standardized.

Teachers

From the perspective of teachers at my high school, the reaction to iPads seem to be mixed. The science and math teachers seem to really enjoy their newfound, quick access to resources and information on the web. Language arts and social sciences teachers, on the other hand, appeared to struggle with the adoption of iPads in the classroom. The biggest problem for these teachers at my school was the students’ use of iPads for “Cyberslacking” — using iPads to play games, surf the web, or otherwise use them for non-classroom purposes.

From my experience, tablets (and other technology) are most effective in the classroom when a teacher sets specific guidelines on how technology should be used. One of the best uses I’ve seen was by my Biology teacher in 9th grade, He utilized an engagement tool that allowed students to interact and follow along with his presentation (on a projector) while the students were on their iPads. This kept students paying attention, because content they needed to learn was directly delivered to the tablets.

In the past two years, working with the administration and IT department at my school, it became clear that the solution to technology in the classroom was simple : training and education on technology use. Only when teachers and students are properly educated on the benefits and pitfalls of technology in the classroom can we expect to find a balance and maximize results of integrating technology in the classroom.

Whether it be in Silicon Valley or Death Valley, technology in the classroom clearly provides many benefits. My interest in education technology has led me to start multiple school organizations for the advancement of technology education, as well as pursue a position at Sokikom. One of my most exciting advancements was a presentation at CES (Consumer Electronics Show), on the integration of hardware engineering and the Internet of Things in middle and high school classrooms. My fellowship with Sokikom has allowed me to expand on my interests and further a field that will only continue to impact the lives of millions. A positive experience with technology as a student will encourage this generation to go into the educational technology field to grow and enhance the classroom for future generations.