Technology in education: Failing our future?

Pens, pencils, rulers, books, dictionaries and folders, once the fundamental machinery of Australia’s school system, are now becoming relics of a past era.

Opinion | Pens, pencils, rulers, books, dictionaries and folders, once the fundamental machinery of Australia’s school system, are now becoming relics of a past era.

Now, it’s iPads, desktops, tablets, Internet and anything else resembling a device from a NASA control centre. In my view this new landscape is potentially delivering education of a standard less than adequate for a country of our standing.

The problem is the belief that technology will automatically produce students far more educated than generations past. But is this the case? Technology can also create dependent students, rather than highly advanced, innovative ones that are proficient and literate in the basics.

The base of the problem is the incorrect application of technology – it is setting up Australian children for failure. For all the benefits technology has to offer, it can also compromise core educational skills. Technology can sometimes dumb down math, reading, handwriting and spelling rather than deliver innovative methods of developing these skills. On the whole technology is a marvellous thing; it has redefined how we work and created new industries.

However, in the area of education it is failing us. Take the case of Apple, whose revolutionary personal technology, from the iPod to iPhone and iPad, has ushered in dramatic changes in people’s lives. In the process, it has grown to become the world’s most valuable brand.

Its devices have found their way into a range of educational settings — but has this paid off for students and educators? Many educators have, as an article of faith, accepted that its devices and associated software platforms and applications are suitable for education.

But, not all technology is beneficial to preparing the young for the future. Australia’s educational institutions need to lift their game and include this in their thinking. Does the use of iPads, for example, really strengthen the core skills of students?

Internet service providers offer parents the ability control what children can access on the Internet, and television manufacturers have included inbuilt parental controls on TVs to prevent children accessing shows not suitable for them.

Why not have ‘educator controls’ as a core feature of personal technology, allowing functions such as spellcheck or autocorrect to be disabled? Why not restrict searching capability to encourage more problem solving and analysis rather than being handed results on a platter?

Maybe it is time for state and federal government standards guidelines on what constitutes a genuinely useful application of technology to education.

Antony Harrowell is an Australian business solutions and technology advisor. Harrowell is founder and CEO of Huxxer Corporation. He currently consults to some of Australia and the Asia Pacific’s major financial institutions

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