EDITORIAL | Should electronic devices be used inside the classroom?

The question of whether the use of electronic devices in the classroom is a boon or bane has hounded educators since we entered the digital era. 

On one hand, gadgets serve as a gateway to information about other learning resources. On the other, it distracts students from the lessons at hand, what with the plethora of information, not to mention social networking and gaming apps, which have little to do with traditional learning.

This question has divided educators on whether there should be space for such devices during learning sessions. One group vehemently opposes their use while another says these devices should be embraced and used in a way that would benefit the students.

But there is a third group of educators who tend to qualify their stance. They maintain that devices are advantageous and necessary, but only to the extent that they do not distract from the actual learning process.

Of these, we believe this third group is the one that is correctly addressing the question.

Per se, gadgets are neither good nor bad. There is no simple categorical answer on whether they are beneficial or detrimental to education, because this isn’t even the question we should be asking at all.

Instead, what we should be asking is how and why these devices are used, instead of question their intrinsic value, which does not exist.

In other words, if they are used to further the goals of education, if their capabilities are harnessed to enhance and enrich the learning experience, if their powers are utilized to teach skills and concepts, then they are a boon.

Conversely, if they take away from the learning process by serving to distract from learning, if they are used to spread false information, or if they become keys to spreading behaviors that go against the academic spirit such as intellectual dishonesty, then they become a bane.

In the end, it is what we make of these devices that matters. This is not as easy as saying we should use such devices all the time for learning, or not use them at all. A more critical and intelligent response would be to look into what they contribute or eliminate, which varies from one instance of their use to another.