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Much has been talked about the digital revolution in education, with many hailing the influx of smart devices the saviour of a broken educational system. However, the jury is still out on whether ICT is beneficial or harmful for students. While it is certainly true that misusing ICT can bring about negative consequences, the same applies to any technology, from agriculture to social media. Conversely, research has consistently shown using technology as a part of the learning process provides positive outcomes.

Whether smart devices are helping or hurting today’s youth is an important question in the light of the looming mental health crisis threatening an increasing number of children and teenagers. So, today we’re trying to answer the question if ICT devices are harmful for students.

How do we know ICT even works?

While using technology in lessons has picked up a lot of pace in the last few years, it should be important to ask whether these methods even work.

Measuring the effectiveness of ICT in learning is a tricky affair, but certain recommendations can be made. For example, collaborative use should be preferred over individual and short, targeted interventions seem to work better over extended use. This might also explain the negative outcomes associated with prolonged and overly frequent use of ICT. However, it is important to keep in mind that most research into the use of smart devices in the learning process has only looked at correlation and not causation.

How much is too much?

Of course, certain qualifications need to be made when we talk about smart device use. For example, based on recent research, there is a preferred frequency of use to achieve optimal results, with once or twice a month to once or twice a week providing the best learning outcomes for students in digital reading. As such, the question becomes less about whether to use ICT in learning, but about the type and frequency of use to achieve optimal results.

So, is ICT always bad?

While an over-reliance on digital devices can certainly lead students to adopt a less-productive attitude towards learning (which leads to worse academic outcomes), this certainly cannot be extrapolated to mean that using any and all ICT devices during the learning process is harmful for students. Despite being a potential source of distraction, smartphones can also serve as important learning tools, enabling students to take notes, conveniently look up information, and communicate with their fellow learners.

However, it is important to acknowledge the well-proven link between smartphone use (especially for social media) and feelings of anxiety and depression.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it cannot be said that using any and all smart devices during the learning process is harmful for students. As with any technology, ICT comes with a plethora of possible applications, ranging from harmful to beneficial. Instead of banning personal laptops and smartphones from classrooms and lecture halls, it’s more important to focus on how to steer students towards making better use of their devices, improving rather than hindering their education. However, the link between an over-reliance on smartphones and social media does come with stark negative effects on students’ mental health. As such, it is more important than ever to put in place an effective framework to steer young people towards a more productive use of smart devices.

To find out how exactly smart devices affect students, take a look at our blog post about how ICT devices have an impact on students’ performance.


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