OPINION: Chromebooks may be a step backward in SCHS’s education

The twenty-first century is indeed an exciting time to be attending school. With educational innovations such as digital whiteboards, student-use laptops, iPads and other interactive technology, the utopian school system once dreamed of is now taking shape. Self-paced learning is now within reach. Peer collaboration and active learning are just a click away. Teachers need not lecture; all the engaging lessons ever needed are at one’s fingertips.

With the onset of the Chromebook distribution last month, SCHS has now taken part in this national movement for technology-enhanced education. Students may expect to see their devices quickly replace ordinary paperwork, a process that will facilitate convenience and efficiency in the classroom. But, amid all the praise and idealization, is America’s idea of the “modern classroom” really an effective approach to education?

Just ask students attending the Kyrene school district in Arizona. In a world that still heavily relies on text-based material, Kyrene administrators have raised the bar by implementing a curriculum entirely technology-based. Students sit in neat rows, collaborating and communicating through their laptops. Children are up and about, exploring the digital whiteboards and engaging in hands-on animation activities. The switch has been a bold and costly investment that has drained $33 million from the district’s coffers, and despite good intentions, the numbers do not seem to be of much beneficial effect. Reading and math scores have stagnated across the district while statewide scores have risen. At the root of the problem is the technology, as it seems to be more hurting than helping.  

Kyrene is merely a microcosm of what is happening across the country. Everywhere one looks, the twenty-first century classroom is idealized as an educational panacea. But studies seem to show it could potentially yield detrimental effects. When polled by the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of teachers believed that technology produced short-attention spans. Moreover, 76 percent claimed that technology reinforced the “Wikipedia Problem” — that is, the notion that the internet provides instantaneous answers to any problem.

Conditioned to find quick, easy solutions, student work quality may decrease. There would also be a gradual decline in critical thinking skills. With all the information a student will ever need at their fingertips, cheating would be a piece of cake, and the need to memorize would diminish.

Also, if there is one golden principle of technology, it is that it can be a major distraction. Why focus on a history lecture when one has access to media, games and more at the simple press of a key? The idea that a handful of administrators can regulate the content of their internet users is absurd (is it even possible to monitor over two thousand screens at once?). Tech-savvy teens will always find ways to bypass security measures and gain access to whatever sketchy sites they choose.

Moreover, the notion that one can hand a device to a teen and expect obedience is ludicrous. Even the most law-abiding students of SCHS will feel tempted to pull up cheat tabs, watch Youtube, or check their Instagram feeds from time to time. It is practically inevitable; therefore, students must be disciplined to use their devices in an appropriate manner so that the Chromebooks do not perpetuate the very problems they intend to solve.

The introduction of Chromebooks paves the way for distractions that will hinder a student’s educational experience. At the heart of the issue is whether or not students will use their devices appropriately, and unless schools find a way to enforce their rules, a technology-based curriculum will continue to be flawed. Schools in the Kyrene district in Arizona — and certainly other districts across the country — serve as constant reminders that classrooms of the future do not necessarily come equipped with utopian ideals.