This is the fourth in a week-long, five-part series on technology and our kids. David Matthau talks to teens, their parents a child psychologist, a sociologist and an education expert to get different perspectives on the positive and negative aspects of technology, and how it's affecting the way our children think and behave.  Read the full series here.

When Jersey teens head back to class in a few weeks, most of them will be heavily relying on technology to help them learn and grow. But is that really such a good thing?


Evo Popoff, an Assistant Commissioner with the New Jersey Department of Education, says, "Technology has had a very significant impact on how we are teaching kids…Information used to be controlled - in one sense - depending on what was presented in textbooks…And updating was slow, but online, that information is updated directly, so students have much more direct access to information, they have much more varied access to information so it's not just what's this publishing company putting in their textbook- that's telling me the information."

He says, "Overall, the impact of technology on learning in school is positive…They do have instant access to vast amounts of information online, but it gets more fundamentally to the ability for districts to be more efficient, to then be able to bring in things like courses that a student would never be able to take otherwise…They now have opportunities to do that through online access and courseware and access to other teachers…You have a whole new world of things you can actually do in a school - 3D printers for instance- the cost of those have come down - you can start building things like fabrication labs."

Popoff adds, "The internet has been able to really democratize education - in the sense of content has become free, or almost free in some ways…But the downside is it may be difficult to determine how legitimate information actually is online, so things like research and analytic skills and how to read statistics and reports has become much more important for students, so they can actually work through all this information that they're getting."

There are other potential problems with technology as well

He points out a recent report on texting and student attention spans concluded "that those students who texted had lower scores in school…There are concerns that texting in some way has replaced actual interaction with other students and communicating…So they may not have the requisite communication skills - not only just to interact with other people, but professionally, when they're doing interviews and things like that."

Popoff says the Department is currently working on an online learning policy that will become part of the curriculum, but he also stresses not all kids are computer literate yet.

"And schools that don't have enough money to get the broadband coverage and the basic networking - they need to have robust online environments. They will start falling farther and farther behind the districts that do have those capabilities - so without a doubt, not every single student has the access that they should have right now."


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