Daniel T. Willingham wrote a recent article entitled,’ Have Technology and Multitasking Rewired How Students Learn?, in the 2010 Summer issue of American Educator. In the article, Dr. Willingham, a professor at the University of Virginia, spoke of a number of issues concerning today’s students and technology. Today’s students are surrounded by technology. Yet, in his article, Dr. Willingham makes a very interesting point. According to research, ‘…today’s students don’t think in fundamentally different ways than students did a generation ago.’
Engagement is something all educators hope for in the classroom. Dr. Willingham notes that, in order to engage students, there need not be ‘…a technological component’. Willingham further states, ‘In order for technology…to increase student engagement in academic content it has to aid in presenting problems as both challenging and solvable.’ ‘It’s the content and what the user might do with it [technology], that makes it interesting’, says Willingham.
In this article, Dr. Willingham reviewed studies done on the use of the interactive whiteboard, in the classroom. Students were surveyed on their opinion, of the interactive tool. Willingham summarized, that students were interested in the new technology but, that interest, ‘…transfers only minimally to the subject.’
Has today’s technology developed, in students, the ability to multitask? ‘There is no truth to [this]’, states Willingham, though he often hears such comments. What can be said of multitasking? According to Dr. Willingham, multitasking is rarely a good thing and, tasks are better performed when done, one at a time. This is unsettling news when data presented here finds, ‘…;over half of high school students report they multitask ‘most of the time’.
Educators must look at the technology they use in the classroom. Does it serve the classroom, and instructional needs? Will it hold the student’s interest ? Is it being used to its fullest potential? According to Dr. Willingham, take advantage of any tutorials about the new technology(ies). From Dr. Willingham’s review it seems that, with or without technology, learning takes place when a good lesson is presented.
Willingham, Daniel T. “Have Technology and Multitasking Rewired How Students Learn?’ American Educator. Washington D.C. : Spring 2010, p. 23-8.