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Technology use in elementary schools sparks debate


Schools across the Bay Area continue to increase the use of technology in class. However, people are questioning whether these developments benefit younger students at the elementary level.

Schools are beginning to not only use technology as an aid in class, but have  entire lessons reliant on laptops.

According to Karen Gordon, an instructional coach and Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math teacher in Mountain View Whisman School District, MVWSD has incorporated an online portal that contains applications available to all students, which acts similar to the PAUSD portal. The portals and applications are available as early as kindergarten in both districts.

This means that by first grade, students at MVWSD are learning math lessons online nearly every day. These lessons are run through a platform called IReady. The platform sends the teacher all the data regarding the students’ progress, so teachers can easily track how well the students are doing. This is the first year MVWSD schools are using the program in classes district-wide. The program helps students receive the practice right for them, according to MVWSD teacher Valentina Vertemera.

“Having computers is helpful so that while I am working with a small group of students, the others can work on material at their own level independently,” Vertemara said.

According to Vertemara, having the class use computers helps her see who is struggling in the class.

“I think one of the benefits of using computers in class is that students are able to learn and practice skills at their own level and can progress at their own pace,” Vertemara said. “In education, we call this concept of teaching at a student’s level differentiation.”

If distractions are successfully avoided, Gordon said there are many benefits to increasing the amount of technology use in class.

“Increasing the use of technology in classrooms, when well-managed and used appropriately, allows students to manipulate various digital modes of learning,” Gordon said. “At the same time, students are able to access a plethora of resources, when guided accordingly. In addition, technology use in the classroom offers a choice in their voice on how students are able to display their knowledge and information through various means.”

According to Gordon, despite the many benefits of using computers, it can be difficult for teachers to manage so many screens at once, and students sometimes get distracted.

“With large amounts of class sizes, it is quite challenging for teachers to be able to manage students’ digital citizenship as temptations such as YouTube and Fortnite are always present when a student has online access,” Gordon said.

Junior Leon Romeo had similar concerns with online education.

“I think I would have had much more fun learning math if it was on the computer during my time in elementary school,” Romeo said. “Although, I perhaps would not have retained the mathematical skills that I needed due to all the possible distractions on the computer, like games.”

With access to so much online entertainment, it is easy for students to get off track which is an issue that many Paly students have experienced.

“It is pretty common to see people playing computer games in class when other computer work has been assigned,” Romeo said.

However, Romeo sees the benefits as well, and said that increasing the use of technology in education could be the spark needed for young students to maintain their engagement during class.

“I think this would definitely excite young students to learn math more than if they were forced to learn with pencil and paper,” Romeo said. “There will probably be a lot of distractions going on because of the technology, but in the end I think it will overall improve their learning experience.”

Gordon said she has noticed  many students have embraced the use of technology, and practice using digital devices at home.

“Students today, for the most part, are very technology-proficient due to the exposures they have to media and technologies accessible to them at home, particularly iPads,” Gordon said.

One concern Gordon has is when technology is not used for creative projects, students sometimes tend to lose interest.

“The struggle presents itself when the engagement of students using such technology often diminishes when they have to use it for assessment purposes,” Gordon said. “Students are often more engaged when they get the freedom to pursue other websites for research, rather than a regimented tasks such as using the computer for assessments or lessons.”

With teachers and administrators searching for the correct balance of technology and classic teaching methods, classes are being taught differently than ever before, putting students in elementary school today in an interesting position. It is apparent that the technology and education industry go hand in hand: where technology goes, the education system will follow.

“Technology is an integral part of our everyday lives,” Vertemera said. “Therefore, I believe it is important for students to learn how to use technology during their time in school.”

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