As we know, children are often times more adept at picking up and using new technology than adults. Their minds are more malleable and they are more open to new experiences. Simultaneously, developing minds have a greater propensity to fall into bad habits. How do we safeguard against this? Well on the one hand there is more information at our fingertips than ever before. On the other hand there are also more distractions than ever before so it can be difficult to capture and maintain students’ attention. The question then becomes, when is there too much technology? Students’ use of smart phones and other media outside of the classroom has been shown to affect their attention span and performance in class.
The Smart phone induced, constant switching between tasks, can result in students with decreased attention spans. “Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task, but for jumping to the next thing. The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.” Michael Rich, associate professor at Harvard Medical School.
Technology used outside of the classroom can create additional pulls on students’ time and attention, which can make holding their attention in class that much more difficult. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study, allowing nearly 24-hr media access to children and teens as they go about their daily lives. They found that 8-18 year olds “devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). ” Not only does media use occupy a large part of student’s time outside of the classroom, it has been shown to affect their ability to retain information.
In a 2007 study lead by researcher and neuroscientist Markus Dworak it was found that “playing video games led to markedly lower sleep quality than watching TV, and also lead to a ‘significant decline’ in the boys’ ability to remember vocabulary words.”
Markus comments “When you look at vocabulary and look at huge stimulus after that, your brain has to decide which information to store. Your brain might favor the emotionally stimulating information over the vocabulary.”
With children being exposed to more technology than ever before, it is becoming increasingly important to consider how we leverage technology in education to maximize student understanding and achievement. Many educators and parents have been championing more technology in the classroom, including BYOT initiatives as a way to keep students engaged. Another ally is 3D Technology. When deployed strategically, 3D has been shown to not only increase test scores, but fosters an increased understanding of abstract, more difficult to grasp concepts. 3D commands student’s attention, while enabling them to explore and experience key concepts on a more detailed, personal level.
In her white paper, 3D in education, Dr. Anne Bamford discusses some of her findings on using 3D technology in the classroom. It was found that 86% of students improved with 3D vs. 52% improvement in 2D classes. Additionally, pre and post test results revealed, student test scores were on average 17% higher in the 3D classes, compared to an 8% improvement in the 2D classes. Students also had a high level of satisfaction learning in 3D (83% approval rating). 3D students were also better able to express learned concepts. They were more likely to demonstrate enhanced skills such as writing more, saying more and were more likely to use models to show their understanding.
With so many devices vying for student’s attention, 3D technology has emerged as an ally in the quest to engage students with subject matter in a thoughtful and simultaneously fun way.
Kaiser Family Foundation Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8-18 year olds
NY Times, Growing up Digital, wired for distraction
The 3D in Education White Paper, Anne Bamford
About Dr. Anne Bamford
Recognized internationally for her research in visual communication, Anne Bamford is Director of the Engine Room, a professor at the University of the Arts in London, Director of the International Research Agency and on the Board of the Centre for Research on Creativity.