Increasingly, people rely on technology to assist their education, whether they’re a child taking elementary classes or a working professional trying to earn their postgraduate degree. Internet access is a practical must at this point, allowing you to practice research, communicate with your teachers and peers, and keep your notes and work organized. But just how much of a role should technology play? And is technology strictly a good thing for learning and retention?
The Function of Technology in Learning Environments
Computer-assisted learning (CAL) standards are starting to be applied to more people and more learning environments. But what exactly do these standards include?
There’s almost no limit to what technology can do, but these are some of the best categories worth exploring:
- Recorded and reviewable lessons. For starters, technology can be used to record and, in the future, review lessons. So rather than relying on a single session with a professor, and some handwritten notes about that lecture, students can completely capture the experience and review it at their leisure in the coming days. We also have the power to capture and distribute lessons for a much wider audience than we could before – and it’s the reason why so many online learning institutions have popped up in recent years.
- Live demonstrations. Why simply learn about the volcanic activity when you can see it happening in front of you? The internet and access to online videos, audio, and other multimedia experiences have opened up the door to more live demonstrations.
- Interactive tutorials. Most of us learn best by doing – rather than learning something out of a book or from a diagram on a chalkboard. With the right tech tools, students can review their lessons in the form of an interactive tutorial, practicing new skills in real-time and potentially getting real-time feedback.
- Gamification. Tech tools also give us the potential to gamify the learning experience. For example, students can get rewards for completing specific assignments, following certain lessons, or earning badges based on their test performance. With the addition of VR and AR, this can be developed even further, completely immersing individuals in their learning experiences.
- Practice and accessibility. After learning something for the first time, you need to practice and reiterate it to truly absorb it. With the help of tablets and other portable devices, it’s easier than ever for students to get the practice and review opportunities they need to learn and retain information.
- Personalized experiences. Certain tech tools also make it possible to include more customized experiences. For example, the curriculum could be explored in several different ways, or you might offer different types of feedback to students based on how they’ve performed or engaged with the material in the past.
The Best Advantages of Technology in Learning
Using technology in a learning environment can have a lot of advantages, such as:
- Higher levels of engagement. For the most part, people find the latest technology to be exciting and engaging. Under the right circumstances, students will be able to pay more attention – and therefore find it easier to retain critical information.
- Simplicity and a breakdown of complexity. Tech tools can also make it easier to break down complex topics into more straightforward, more accessible matters. This is especially true if you’re using interactive tutorials and online lessons to guide students through a series of steps in the learning process.
- Immediate feedback for students. In some cases, tech can provide students with real-time feedback. They don’t have to wait to receive a grade or a personal review; a machine or algorithm can tell them precisely what they’re doing right or wrong.
- Convenience and availability. There’s no question that portable, mobile technologies make lessons much more convenient and accessible. People can learn anywhere, at any time, and study at their leisure.
- Permanence and persistence. If you’re not great at taking notes, or if you zoned out during a lecture, you might be lost without technology. But with recorded lessons and better note-taking, your acquired lessons will have more permanence.
- Individualization. Certain types of technology function like small, digital personal assistants for each student. This level of individualization allows lagging students to get the attention they need while allowing advanced students to continue progressing unimpeded.
Drawbacks to Consider
However, there are also some drawbacks to consider, such as:
- Costs of acquisition and integration. Technology is expensive. Getting a tablet in the hands of every student in a classroom can be challenging to manage.
- Tech skill gaps. The COVID-19 pandemic had made education more tech-centric, but there are still tech skill gaps to resolve. For example, if students find it hard to use the technology, or if teachers can’t figure out how to integrate these tools into their lessons, many of the advantages will be lost.
- Rate of change. New tech doesn’t remain static for long; it’s constantly advancing. So it’s easy for even the most progressive and updated organizations to become obsolete if they’re not continually changing as well.
- The role of distraction. Tech can assist in the learning process in many ways, but it can also be a distraction. Even the best of us occasionally get pulled away from our studies and work because of the entertainment value of our devices.
- Excessive dependence. If you become dependent on tech tools to study and learn, you might find it challenging to learn or pay attention in other contexts.
Keys to Using Technology for Learning and Retention
If you want to use more technology in your ongoing efforts for learning, education, and memory retention, these tips can help you:
- Understand that “high tech” isn’t always a good thing. Whether you’re trying to get a child through middle school or you’re trying to train a leadership team to expand your business, you should know that “high-tech” learning solutions aren’t always a good thing. You don’t always need the latest and greatest technologies to accomplish tasks, and in some contexts, technology is more of a hindrance than a help.
- Use a mix of new tech and old approaches. Don’t exclusively depend on technology for learning purposes. For example, you can use a combination of live, in-person demonstrations and recorded lectures, or a mix of old-school note-taking with modern, digital forms of organization. There are strengths and weaknesses in each approach, so strive to make the most of both of them.
- Stay up to date. Year-old technology might as well be brand new. But after a few years, older technology doesn’t look as appealing or as fresh. If you want to make the most of your tech tools, keep them upgraded as much as possible.
- Have a plan to eliminate distractions. How are you going to deal with the distraction problem? For example, some devices have parental controls and other features to limit access to certain apps or websites. You might also impose time limits on yourself, mitigating the impact of distractions on your studying time or productive time.
- Keep the focus on the individual. Individualized, personalized experiences are crucial to learning and retention. Try to figure out your personal needs or the unique needs of the students you’re teaching; some will find technology much more accessible and engaging than others.
- Remain adaptable. There’s no single prescription for using technology “correctly” in a learning environment, and the tech itself is always changing. Accordingly, it’s critical for you and your organization to remain as adaptable as possible, adjusting your approach as you go.
When used wisely, technology can make it much easier for a person to learn new things – and stay engaged with the rest of their class. But it can also make learning more difficult if misused. That’s why it’s essential to put together a high-level, proactive plan for how you’re going to use technology in a learning environment long before you actually start using it. Do that, and you’ll be in a much better position to produce the learning outcomes you want.
Image Credit: Anastasia Shuraeva; Pexels; Thank you!