Kids and technology

Jill Morton, Columnist

I recently visited an elementary school through a pen pal program and got to experience an hour in the life of a fourth grader. I haven’t been in a fourth-grade classroom since I was in elementary school myself and things have certainly changed since then. The biggest difference I noticed was how much technology was at their disposal.

I was visiting my pen pal for just an hour and I happened to visit when they were doing this ‘makey makey’ activity. I had no idea what this was, but the kids were all very excited about it. For those of you who don’t know what these are, it’s an activity where students basically hook up different objects to their computer which can make different games and other interactive activities.

However, the part that surprised me the most was when this ten year-old girl unpacked her own laptop. Perplexed, I asked her if laptops were required for everyone. She casually told me that everyone gets one at the beginning of the year.

I was stunned. I hardly even knew how to use a computer at that age, let alone have my own that I was responsible for bringing to school every day.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that technology is a necessity in today’s society. Technology is so ingrained in our society that these young kids need to be learning how to utilize the latest technology. Johannah Hayes, a student in the teaching program here at UND, explained it very well.

“In today’s classroom, we have to prepare students for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet because technology is always changing,” Hayes said.

I had never thought of that, but now I completely agree with her. I was always appalled when ten-year-old kids out in public had their own phones. But, I kind of understand why it’s okay, even encouraged, nowadays. It’s the same idea as in schools. Kids need to learn the latest technology so that as the technology advances, they don’t have to play catch up for the first 15 years of their lives.

Despite these pros, there are still cons regarding the usage of technology in the classroom.

“Technology is only good if it adds another layer to the assignment,” said Hayes. “If you could do the same assignment with pen and paper, laptops shouldn’t be brought in. So new technology isn’t fundamentally good or bad. It depends on how it’s used.”

New technology can also create new distractions, so it’s important to know when to allow the kids to use their laptops and when to make sure they’re put away.

“There needs to be a balance here,” Hayes said. “Some teachers use technology too much, while others don’t use it enough. Kids still need to be able to play outside and run around and get dirty. But they also need to learn how to thrive in this technologically savvy society that we live in.”

I think that with the advancements made in this day and age, it’s essential to teach young kids how to use technology in the best way possible so they can grow up to be responsible with all of the devices that they’ll be required to utilize.

Jill Morton is a columnist for the Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].