What do you get when a class of 27 sixth graders has the chance to dispel myths about technology? A virtual explosion of ideas! That’s what happened when the superintendent of the district where I work, Rowan-Salisbury Schools, asked middle school students to counter local media criticism about our 1:1 laptop rollout in 2014.
The students in my academically and intellectually gifted language arts class were eager to step up to the challenge. “Can we work on this today, Mrs. Fleming?” they asked. “Let’s all share our ideas in the classroom!” they said, and the ideas flowed fast: “Can we have one of those ‘circle’ things [Socratic Seminar] where we pass the bear back and forth to tell our ideas?” “What if we all write down our thoughts and then share them with everybody?”
My students could not wait to begin. So we changed our original plans for the day and brainstormed ideas. They worked in groups and wrote down their thoughts. They gathered more ideas in a Socratic Seminar. Then, for homework, they penned more thoughts and suggestions and shared them the next day.
The thing I loved about this challenge was that every single one of my students got involved. In fact, one of my shyest students came up with the idea that technology helps kids who struggle with the English language. When I pointed out to him later that day that he was the only one in class who thought of that idea, he beamed! Later he asked, “I’m really the only one out of 27 students who thought of this?” Since that moment, he’s made a point to talk with me every day outside of class, and his work and test scores have improved dramatically.
It was no easy task for such a large group of students to combine their ideas into one article. Even though they disagreed about some points, they kept collaborating and eventually accomplished their task. Here is what they came up with, in their voice.
Myths vs. truths about technology: A student response
At Rowan-Salisbury School System in Salisbury, North Carolina, Dr. Moody assigned our AIG class a challenge. This challenge was to prove the benefits and debunk the negative myths about technology in our education. We accepted the challenge and started brainstorming. Here are some of the myths and assumptions about utilizing technology in our schools.
Myth 1: Technology is used to cyberbully when students are exposed to negative social media.
The truth: Students can learn how to use proper “netiquette” while online. Students can also learn how to protect their identities, create positive profiles for future colleges and employers to view, learn the benefits of posting positive and encouraging messages, and stand up for students who are being bullied. Many people have heard about the negative things students have done on social media, so people assume that’s true of all students. We can assure you that this is not true; the majority of students use technology in a positive manner.
Myth 2: Technology does not benefit student learning at home.
The truth: Students can use technology to work at home individually and collaboratively on homework and projects, and they can easily receive assignments from teachers if they were absent from school. If you need help at home with assignments, you can email the teacher to get assistance. Students can play educational games and explore areas of interest in depth, such as historical or scientific concepts.
Myth 3: Technology does the thinking so students do not learn skills on their own.
The truth: Tools such as autocorrect and spellcheck can help students with their learning. If students are taught how to use these tools, their spelling can actually improve. Dictionaries and thesauruses are accessible to benefit students in their learning. Students can use apps to help meet their unique learning styles. Using technology makes school projects and homework easier to organize; you’re also able to keep it in a variety of electronic files for easy access. Students are able to create notebooks online for expert note taking. Also, if a student misses a class, a friend or teacher can easily send the notes. Students also have the ability to research topics without worrying whether books are available in the libraries or if those books are not up to date.
Myth 4: Students get distracted and play on their iPads/laptops.
The Truth: Students are fully engaged when using technology in their learning. They can learn and have fun at the same time. Students can apply many gaming apps, such as Minecraft, to their learning. For example, Minecraft can be used for mythology units, novel projects, history reenactments, science projects, etc. Students now have the opportunity to reach outside of traditional classroom walls and find more information on topics than they ever could before. Students get totally engaged using technology to further explore educational topics. By using this technology, students have many opportunities to share what they have learned in other classrooms around the world.
Myth 5: Technology creates mindless students and is addictive.
The truth: Technology can be a beneficial tool for differentiation. Technology helps students set the pace at which they learn best. Over the years, teachers have observed that not all students work and learn at the same pace. For example, one student can struggle at reading and spelling, and another student can excel at those skills. After using educational apps with teacher guidance, struggling students will learn how to master skills and objectives on their own. Students can use language translations, text-to-speech, spell check, calculators, etc. They can create different types of study guides, including vocabulary flashcards, notes, Keynotes and Minecraft creations to master skills. Students have to problem-solve to get technology to work in a way that is beneficial to them.
Myth 6: Some students don’t have access to the internet.
The truth: Students can download or take pictures of the needed information from the internet at school, and use this at home to create a report, iMovie, science project, etc. They can take the downloaded information and soar with their projects. Also, we have many businesses and community centers that offer free internet access for our students.
Myth 7: Electronics cost too much.
The truth: In today’s society, we have a very competitive job market. Our world is very technology based, and most of our jobs today require tech-savvy employees. If we want students to succeed and do everything to the best of their abilities, they need to have every advantage to be successful. If students at our schools are struggling financially, we do everything we can to make sure they have the same advantages as any other student. Grants, community members, organizations and businesses have supported our 21st century initiative. We need to consider the future of our natural resources as well. Going digital means spending less on textbooks and paper and allows us to save trees.
Myth 8: Technology inhibits social skills.
The truth: Isolation is a valid concern, but technology can be used to share ideas, to actively involve all participants in class activities and to improve social skills. For example, students really enjoy sharing how they figured out a problem using technology or showcasing how they created a project on an educational unit. Technology can also enhance presentation quality. Students can create “wow” presentations, such as videos, virtual models and Keynotes. Students also develop leadership skills as they share their ideas and solutions with other students, teachers and classrooms around the world.
Other benefits of classroom technology
- Most students today want good careers. To achieve this, we must do the work and think of the consequences of our actions.
- We love to research and discover new things; technology allows us to explore topics of interest and better ourselves as students
- Laptops and iPads are portable, which allows us to work anywhere.
- Technology connects our parents to our wonderful teachers, allowing our parents to help us get the assistance we need.
- When we begin looking for jobs, we will look back at the skills we learned by using technology.
Interested in what students across the United States are saying about tech in the classroom? View the 2015 Speak Up report From Print to Pixel: The role of videos, games, animations and simulations within K-12 education.
Angelia Fleming is the academically and intellectually gifted language arts teacher at North Rowan Middle School. The following students contributed to this article: Alexia Athey, Jeremiah Bowman, Brenden Brewer, Marbeli Bustillo Castro, Alena Chang, Arizona Day, Josh Feaster, Justice Feaster, Logan Halstead, Aaron Hill, Alex Hill, Elijah Hills, Ali Khatib, Kaden Krider, Jasmin Lara Martinez, Alaina Lopez, Jennifer Lore, Luke Morgan, Ashley Nguyen, Christarian Patterson, Sebastian Reed, Dasia Ruffin, Diego Sanchez Medina, Kadrian Smith, Kaylin Sturdivant-Hill, Aden Toledo, Diana Vega Carrillo, Gabrielle Sloan-May.