The truth about computers in classrooms

Jasper Locke

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Online there are many forums dedicated to the debate of today’s classrooms and how they function compared to those of decades passed. Even outside internet circles, the discussion spreads to everyday life; often, conversations between adults and anyone currently in public education are peppered with comments on the lack of mandatory cursive writing, writing in general, genuine chalkboards, and the like. This topic seems to be of great concern to everyone but students: what happened to paper in classrooms, and how is it affecting students today?

Here in New Castle High School, assignments are almost always done through Moodle, Google Classroom — two services aimed at integrating technology with classrooms — or written by hand and turned in directly to a teacher, with preferences seeming to lean more toward the former.

It does not seem unreasonable to question how or why this electronically-inclined method might affect students; after all, it’s likely that any younger person has heard the argument before. Someone in a position of authority above them starts talking about how everyone from a certain age and below all seem to have terrible handwriting skills. This can get especially frustrating when any online format is pushed upon students. There is almost always no alternative to turning in assignments online.

There are apparent advantages for students and teachers alike when utilizing online services for classwork. For example, it is much easier for a teacher to grade assignments when turned in online, as with Google Classroom, where all work can be readily observed. Not only is work easier to manage online, but by inputting grades into Powerschool, a technology platform specializing in managing grades, students can see their grades as soon as the teacher puts them in. Of course, it is much harder for students to forge their report cards when their parents can see any grade online.

On the other hand, there are major complaints about classroom reliance on technology. The most evident concern is how difficult being productive is while using a computer. Computers are designed to handle multiple functions at once, which clearly works to the detriment of its user sitting at the desk. Distractions are online games, other classwork, or even being able to cheat easily by searching things online, all while the teacher isn’t looking. After all, most classrooms have started to use laptops instead of desktop computers, making it easy for a student to turn his screen or even shut the laptop lest a teacher come snooping around to assess productivity.

It is given that there are more than likely a multitude of ways that these problems could be resolved, so what else is there to debate? After all, computers boast the advantage of not using paper and consequently producing less paper waste, can charge overnight and be used throughout the day, and automatically process a lot of data for students and teachers alike, taking some stress away. Some would argue that the use of computers instead of paper removes the individuality promoted by penmanship, the sense of accomplishment when turning in assignments, or the satisfaction of being able to substantiate an afternoon’s hard work with a stack of papers.

Regardless of the individual weight on either side of the argument, the decision was made years ago in New Castle High School to remove paper from most classrooms. Essays, class assignments, bellwork, and more are almost always done online. Students will find that the value of penmanship will become less prominent as the years go on and they exit school. The trend seems to be that technology will continue to replace menial things like writing until shadowed completely.

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