A Critical Review of Digital Technology in Education that should give Policy Makers and Educators Pause for Thought

Credit for post: Professor Tom Butler and The EM Radiation Research Trust

A Critical Review of Digital Technology in Education that should give Policy Makers and Educators Pause for Thought

PDF https://www.radiationresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Digital-Technology-in-Education-Working-Paper-2019.pdf

“Digital Technology is hardly the benign, neutral presence in education that we are often assured it to be”
Selwyn (2015, p. 247)


There is a dearth of scientific evidence and evidence-based practice to justify current levels of digital technology use for educational purposes in the classroom and in the home. In contrast, there is a growing body of scientific
studies across several disciplines that highlight the direct and indirect negative effects of Digital Technology use on human cognition, learning, and behaviour. This paper considers objective evidence from peer-reviewed scientific studies in cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and related disciplines, as well as the field of education itself, to review the fundamental problems that beset Digital Technology use in education. The paper highlights, for example, that:

(1) Screens lead to sleep disruption and deprivation, which impacts on learning, and is associated with obesity, and
other physical disorders, such as computer vision syndrome;

(2) Computer use in class disrupts the learning process and impairs learning outcomes for users and non-users alike;

(3) Learning with books and paper is superior in comparison to learning with e-books;

(4) Taking notes with pen and paper, as opposed to touch typing lecture notes in class, leads to better learning

(5) Smart phone, iPAD and laptop use result in student distraction and multitasking, which, impair learning and lead to neural addiction problems, such as Internet addiction disorder and other psychological maladies;

(6) There are islands of success in an ocean of failure when it comes to Digital Technology and educational technologies, with researchers arguing that there is little evidence to support the proposition that Digital
Technology and/or EdTech improve pedagogy or learning outcomes;

(7) Finally, basic education about Digital Technology is one topic that needs to find a place in the curriculum. However, as with all Digital Technology initiatives, the introduction of programmes at primary and secondary schools level need to be considered mindfully, with the strengths and limitations of the proposed enabling technologies clearly in focus. All this should give educators, administrators and politicians pause for thought. The paper concludes by discussing its findings, offering practical recommendations, and by suggesting a change in emphasis in pedagogy in and through Digital Technology.

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