Editorial: Are schools too reliant on technology?

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

Education is not what it used to be. Modern technology has taken a prevalent role in today’s classrooms. But is our regional education system relying too heavily on advancement promised by iPads and laptops?


According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, school districts in Upper St. Clair, Shaler Area, Hampton and Bethel Park have implemented or plan to implement one-to-one programs. These programs distribute iPads, Chromebooks or laptops to individual students.

Students and teachers must adapt to the heavy presence of technology in classrooms.

Now, there is little doubt that technological innovation can benefit students. Simply using YouTube allows teachers to show clips and footage previously inaccessible to learners. Google Drive can streamline and organize the sharing and editing of group documents. Other social media sites, such as Twitter and Facebook, make public opinions on current events readily accessible. 

Additionally, learning how to efficiently use practical programs such as Microsoft Office can prepare students at an early age for the professional workforce ahead. 

Although using some technology in proper settings is auspicious to student success, excessive reliance on the devices can be detrimental.

We’ve all experienced it in college. We often sit in class while others type away, thunderously pounding keys as they check Facebook messages or complete online purchases. Regardless of how effective certain digital educational initiatives are, many students will use their technology for non-educational purposes.

If one student opts to not pay attention or take classes seriously, that is his or her choice. But it is not fair to distract others who are trying to comprehend the material and discussion presented in class. 

It is naive to think that such practices would not manifest at the high school level, too. Giving students too much technological leeway will only lead to more distractions, not learning.

In fact, in 2010, University of Colorado professor Diane Sieber conducted a study that found students who used laptops in class averaged 11 percent worse on tests than students who took notes the “old-fashioned” way.

As the gubernatorial election draws near, and education funding remains a central issue, we should ask ourselves — is funding classroom distraction really the best use of resources? Are Harrisburg’s or local districts’ decisions hurting education in the commonwealth?

If a district has the means to obtain such technology and deems it necessary for students’ progress, it’s not the state’s role to say otherwise. But individual districts should take into consideration other areas that could benefit from the funds currently pumped into take-home iPads and laptops. Other potential sources of funding could include hiring more teachers to secure lower class sizes, increasing funding for arts education and providing a diverse selection of extracurricular activities. 

Technology is important, but it isn’t everything. Students must grasp how to learn, communicate and excel without an iPad or laptop always at the ready. Well-rounded individuals can do this. Let’s ensure that can continue.