Everything Digital = Everything to Lose? How the Tech Generation May be Getting Set Up to Fail

When discussing with a peer his ambition to run for a position on his local School Board, the issue on the forefront of his campaign was to cut the funding for and requirement of purchasing iPads for all middle and high tech generation students. Plot twist- this perspective comes not from a technologically challenged, micro-managing parent, but rather from a tech-savvy, avid device user, sophomore at Southern Methodist University.

Unfortunately, a Pew Research Center study has confirmed our grandparent’s rants about the negative implications of staring at a screen all day. A whopping 87% of teachers in the study, joined by the College Board and the National Writing Project, reported that technology is creating an “easily distracted generation with short attention spans.” 64% of both middle and high school professors stated that today’s digital technologies “do more to distract students than to help them academically.” 

Students of the tech generation can't help but get distracted by the hundreds of non-educational purposes, such as Photo Booth, that the iPad initiative invites into the classroom.

Students getting distracted by their iPads in a Los Angeles classroom.

Director of the Pew Internet Project Lee Rainie hit the nail on the head when remarking that the tremendously overpowering influence of modern day technology may be attributed to the inability of students to understand how to master time management at such young ages.  “Multi-tasking” has become a casual phrase referring to how our brains should function in this day and age, with the expectation that humans are able to comprehend and retain information while receiving and sending text messages with various people, listening to lyric-stuffed music, with various online shopping windows up, and while regularly glancing at overflowing Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat feeds, etc. Why, and how, is it that the biggest culprit of distraction has become the turned to tool for educating the youth?

Loosely titled the “iPad Initiative,” the break up between school districts and textbooks has become an epidemic as tablet computers are being utilized as a tool to help implement the new Common Core state standards for math and reading. The separation has had its positives, though, such as financial savings, lighter backpacks, and providing students with technology and internet awareness. The iPad Initiative provides instant information at students’ fingertips, which is both a blessing and a curse. There is a difference between information and knowledge:

Information – facts provided or learned about something or someone.

Knowledge – facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Although these nouns are used universally and interchangeably, it is pivotal that the tech generation is enlightened on the true difference between the two. The iPad initiative teaches only how to access information, without pushing students to both absorb and comprehend that information and make it knowledge.