Technology for ESL

Advantages and Disadvantages of Technology in Education
By:Karen Hollowell

Technology has revolutionized the classroom but is not without its disadvantages--not in its use, but in what its use replaces. Many classrooms are being retrofitted with Smartboards and computers but they cannot replace old methods of teaching.

The technology available today has made a wealth of knowledge available to students, which offers great potential for the speed and style of learning. Information is presented in so many ways that any type learner, whether gifted or disabled, can find and use the necessary material. This fact relates not only to the Internet, but to all the many technological improvements in learning, from smart boards to handheld dictionaries.

Loss of Skills
With this increased access to knowledge also comes a probable loss of communication skills and interactive abilities between students and teacher, and students to peers. These skills are not as necessary in a classroom of computers, where individuality is a component of learning and is encouraged. Aside from learning, conflict resolution and socialization used to be two prominent reasons children came to school. The emphasis now has shifted away from these areas.

Access to All
Education is no longer the elitist privilege it once was. The information on the Internet is there for all who have access, without discrimination. People of all social strata are able to use technological advances, which is a fairly new academic development in America.

Poor Remain Poor
While general access is not denied, some children may not be exposed to computers and other technology because of socio-economic status. A child may live in a home without a computer, and chances are he will attend a poor school district with limited numbers of computers available. A student may get to use a computer for a short time, or only as a once-a-week activity instead of a regular class period. This puts these children at a disadvantage in learning technological functions. Poor districts are also most likely not to be the recipients of other technological modes of learning.

Advantages vs. Disadvantages
The computer age is here; this cannot be debated. Is it better for children to have access to computers with all their data at the loss of interpersonal skills? Is it acceptable that a student can talk to someone halfway around the world via instant messaging but not be able to get along with the student sitting next to her in a classroom? Technology can enhance traditional methods of learning but cannot replace the human touch. Ultimately, the quality of the class will depend solely on the quality of the teacher and not the presence of technology.

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