Credit: Allison Shelley for American Education
A fifth grade teacher helps a student with a computer-based lesson in class.

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As a high school student, it is sad and concerning for me to see the increasing reliance on technology as a substitute for direct instruction in our schools.

Classrooms across the nation have more access than ever to online, self-paced programs, individual devices and instructional packages for teachers. It would seem the post-distance-learning, newly discovered use of technology to aid in instruction is a positive.

However, our access to technology is not aiding the learning process, it’s replacing the magic of teacher-to-student connection and animated classroom discussions.

According to EdWeek, as of May 2020, at least 59% of schools in the U.S. have a computer for every student, and per Gallup, 65% of teachers use technology to teach every day.

However, in a 2020 Gallup poll, only 27% of teachers felt that “a lot of information is available” about the effectiveness of the tens of thousands of educational technology apps now accessible to them. And yet, those apps have a greater presence in the classroom, especially following remote learning.

Among them, Kahoot, a multiple-choice learning game platform, offers more than 100 million “ready-to-play games” to students and teachers. Another ed-tech app, Nearpod, allows teachers to use any of its more than 22,000 all-digital lessons, videos and activities across every subject area.

Actively Learn is an online digital curriculum providing nearly 20,000 literary works and explanatory texts, and even an automatic grading system for its activities. This type of program can all but replace every teacher-developed component of the classroom experience: It provides built-in, publisher-provided assignments, projects and assessments that could completely stand in for an English class.

All of this takes the learning out of the classroom and onto the screen. It eliminates the verbal interaction between students, their peers and their teachers — not ideal as we return from the social isolation of remote learning. Now, the overuse of technology and computer-based software in the classroom threatens to exacerbate the interaction-draining impacts of remote instruction.

Schools should embrace enthusiastic classroom debates and discussions instead of relying on the Nearpod app’s 250-character limit for student posts on its “discussion boards.” Face-to-face discussions foster critical thinking and attentive listening skills and teach students to respectfully disagree while supporting their own positions, something that rarely happens on today’s digital apps.

Teachers should promote hand-annotated essays and hand-drawn posters as learning tools. Letting technology function as the teacher during in-person learning is simply a physical classroom version with distance learning’s downfalls.

Of course, not all technology in school is a negative; a balance can be found. Online library-like websites, for instance, can save schools money and allow access to digital textbooks if hard copies are unaffordable. The internet offers numerous scientific simulations in which students can visualize the atoms in chemical processes. And virtual typing programs help students with the development of that key skill.

That said, technology in the classroom — such as at-your-fingertips research information — should only assist the learning process.

I advocate for the traditional method because I remember lively and engaging class debates on current events issues, small-group discussions about literature and hands-on projects from before technology dominated every lesson.

Whiteboard lectures and notes taken by hand lead to priceless aha! moments. For example, I will always remember more the part of math classes where students demonstrated their knowledge in different ways in front of the class than the online math games we played.

Actual labs in science class make that light bulb go off more than staring at a screen. And writing information down for a spelling test always helped me to better deconstruct and memorize words than simply copy-and-pasting them online.

How will endless hours on computer screens solve any of distance learning’s long-lasting social isolation and learning loss? We must try to save the special moments of human interaction in the classroom, or risk stifling our social and academic development. Our education is not something we can allow to be automated.

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Adam Abolfazli is a Sacramento high school student. He previously attended public school in San Francisco.

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  1. Dorinda Kay Grandbois 2 weeks ago2 weeks ago

    I agree that teachers still need to be involved. None of the software listed above is intended to replace the teacher. Kahoot! is made as an interactive platform for gamification for review of material already learned. Online reading material should still have in-class discussion – similar to articles. Video labs are similar to demonstrations and should still be done in the classroom. Use technology to enhance teaching not supplant it. In order to do this … Read More

    I agree that teachers still need to be involved. None of the software listed above is intended to replace the teacher. Kahoot! is made as an interactive platform for gamification for review of material already learned. Online reading material should still have in-class discussion – similar to articles. Video labs are similar to demonstrations and should still be done in the classroom. Use technology to enhance teaching not supplant it. In order to do this properly, the teachers need to be taught how to do this. It doesn’t come naturally to most.