Understanding the Psychological Effects of Digital Learning

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Understanding the Psychological Effects of Digital Learning
There is an electronic pandemic that has struck school systems in Chicago and across the nation. While educators are certainly concerned about cell phones and other distractive devices in the classroom, that’s not what we’re talking about. Though cellular devices are considered distractions in school, digital devices have permeated the educational process itself. Consider the facts:
  • More and more elementary schools are relying on iPads and similar tablets as reading devices and tools to keep a hold of children’s short attention spans.
  • Electronic games, once unique to learning at home, are now a part of many elementary and even middle schools. Even high schools employ interactive technology to engage students and stimulate discussion.
  • Though physical textbooks remain the number one choice for educators, there’s been a larger push by all industries for academics to adapt digital textbooks.
  • Online classes can be used to achieve degrees past high school, with many required courses now being exclusively offered online.
While it is clear that the cultural paradigm has shifted towards a digital world infused with technology, it remains unclear how digital learning effects long-term intelligence, human interaction, and other psychological considerations. If there’s one thing educators and parents can agree on, it’s that while technology grabs the children’s attention, there’s a possibility that digital learning might be “too easy.”
As early as 2010, approximately two out of three children ages 4 to 7 had used an iPhone or an iPad either at home, school, or daycare. The benefit of tablet technology in the educational process is that young children can navigate through the world without the help of their parents. The intuitive design of touch technology allows children to immediately enter electronic game fantasy, where its effects on neurological and psychological development are still largely unknown.
Technology and Its Effects on Brain Development
Though children grow the fastest during their grade school years, the neurological and psychological growth isn’t yet mature until after high school – or in some cases college, as full maturity doesn’t occur in the frontal lobes until the mid-20s. Electronic games and learning are posing a concern because this technology doesn’t appear to stimulate children’s frontal lobes, which are the first areas of the brain to develop. The brain develops from front-to-back. With $2.7 billion pumping through the electronic industry, this technology is unlikely to go anywhere soon – if ever.
Of course, this isn’t to say that technology is a negative thing that should be avoided in the classroom. Instead, educators and parents alike must strike the right balance between using it as a tool and interacting with students on a personal, relationship-based basis. It’s that human touch and interaction that truly stimulates growth and psychological development. See more about what Mack R. Hicks, Ph.D. has to say about the digital pandemic in the classroom. You’ll be surprised at how technology changes everything – and yet nothing – in psychology.