by Shawn Yaftali ‘17
This school year, most of the English teachers have been given their own cart of Google Chromebooks, low-cost laptop and tablet hybrids, to enhance learning. Yet, the Chromebooks have received mixed feelings from students in the past. For instance, during PARCC testing, test-takers complained that the devices were a hassle to use and a waste of money.
These opinions, however, did not sway MCPS’s decision to spend around $2 million on modernizing school technology, adding to the 40,000 Chromebooks purchased previously. Aside from a few student complaints, many teachers are excited to see the effects these gadgets will have on the classroom.
“[Chromebooks] makes research so much easier. It allows for mixed media presentations, and that’s fabulous,” explained the English Resource teacher Shelley Jackson. Students should expect to use the Chromebooks fairly often, “at least a couple times a week. In the nature of an English class, students are always going to have a writing assignment to work with.”
Now that every English classroom has its own cart of Chromebooks, students will be able to work on assignments much more efficiently. In the past, teachers would have to sign up in advance to borrow a cart from the Media Center, severely limiting the amount of time students were able to use them.
“Chromebooks are absolutely beneficial, partly for the sake of scheduling. All of the tenth graders would do the research paper at the same time. It’s difficult to try and find the lab time and the media center time to get in what you need. So this solves that problem completely,” added English 10 teacher Christiane Lock.
Even though Chromebooks have more efficiently permitted students to work on written assignments during class time, the benefit of increasing the amount of technology in the classroom is less clear to educators.
“All the research shows that people comprehend what they read better on paper, than when they read something from a screen of any kind. Is that to say that we should never read on a screen? Obviously not, but it requires balance. I think peoples’ writing skills get worse when they’re reading everything [off of a screen] and just printing things off,” said Jackson.
While expanding technology in education is very exciting, its impact on our higher level thinking remains a concern. The long-term effects of using technology too much are still being discovered.
“Every medium has its strengths and weaknesses… the Internet may develop impressive visual intelligence, [but] the cost seems to be deep processing: mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection,” explained developmental psychologist Patricia Greenfield in an article for the Science magazine.