Classroom tech needs purpose

We need to be critical when deciding whether to utilize more electronic devices in our schools.

by Alia Jeraj

I  have a love-hate relationship with technology. Right now, I’m patiently waiting for my iPhone to die so I can return to a flip phone. While I wait, however, I’m fully enjoying my mobile access to email, Uber and Instagram. 
I find myself caught in a similar conflict when confronted with technology in classrooms. Readers may remember that I’m in the midst of my last liberal education credit — an entry-level biology lecture. Though it doesn’t happen often, our class occasionally uses an online program to answer survey questions in class. With each use, I find myself wondering whether raising our hands couldn’t serve a similar purpose in less time.
I am by no means opposed to using technology in classrooms. In fact, I think it has the power to facilitate some really incredible things that would be impossible otherwise. For example, I’m currently working at a middle school to help students create digital stories using computers, tablets and cameras.
However, my experience has been that many teachers at all levels of education are using more technology in their classrooms simply for the sake of doing so. They often employ iPads or computer programs for tasks they could accomplish just as well (or better) without them.
I understand that other factors, such as grants and donations, might influence these decisions and that teachers are not always to blame. Yet I also think that both teachers and those encouraging the use of technology in classrooms need to be extremely intentional about its purposes and the ways they use it. 
Without a clear, specific purpose, technology tends to waste time — and that’s a loss students simply cannot afford. 
Alia Jeraj welcomes comments at [email protected].