Technology Can Negatively Affect Learning

Technology Can Negatively Affect Learning

As an educator, I’ve observed a concerning trend. People, particularly students, have become reliant on technology such as computers and smartphones for writing and communication. It’s not uncommon to see them struggle to think and compose thoughts without their electronic devices. This reliance on technology is evident even in our discussions about complex topics like God’s existence or the Bible’s inspiration. When asked about a basic fact, many respond by saying they have to check with Google, Alexa, or Siri. Educational psychologists are warning that this over-reliance on technology can negatively affect learning. 

A Scientific American article by Charlotte Hu reports on studies dating back to 2014 showing technology’s negative effect on learning. Hu points out that research has shown that people can type notes with very little brain activity. Many years ago, I worked for David Segal, a leader in the use of learning tests. He once told me, “American education is moving material from a professor’s notes to a student’s test paper with as little interference as possible in between.” We have advanced that one step further by saying it moves from a professor’s laptop to a student’s with no absorption by the human brain in between.

Transcribing in longhand is slower than typing into an electronic device, requiring the writer to pay closer attention. One research study used a head covering with 256 electrodes to detect brain activity when students handwrote and typed words. When students wrote the words, there was widespread brain function, but when the same student typed the words, brain activity was minimal, showing that technology can negatively affect learning.

When I taught physics to high school kids, we would calculate what should happen in a physical situation. Then, the students designed and conducted experiments to test their predictions. I would work through a solution on the blackboard, doing the math in my head. As hand-held calculators became more advanced, students would plug numbers into a program in the calculator to get the same answer. Later, one of the students I had done this with in class was making change for me at a drive-in restaurant. I gave the student a dollar bill to pay for a 67-cent item, but the student couldn’t give me the correct change without using a calculator. 

The human brain is designed to process information and record relevant data. Technology can negatively affect learning when an electronic device takes over some of that process, bypassing the brain. Children need to have their brains stimulated and relevant information stored in their heads, including memorizing Bible verses. Perhaps a factor in the loss of belief in God and the Bible today is that technology is taking over our thinking. Those who created the technology are not as capable as the One who created our brains

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: “Hands-on” by Charlotte Hu in the May 2024 issue of Scientific American, page 134