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May 20, 2019

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Marketplace Morning Report
Learning Curve

Parents find promise and peril in education technology

Adriene Hill May 15, 2015
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These days, virtually every school in the country is wired, and students are doing everything from class work to homework on laptops and tablets. This hasn’t just changed things for teachers and students, it has also changed life for parents.

In a national, online survey, “Parents’ Attitudes Toward Educational Technology,” Marketplace asked parents of children in grades 3 through 12 about their opinions on the changing role of technology in the classroom.

Parents say nearly every child uses a computer, tablet, or smartphone for school work, including turning in homework, writing reports, taking tests and playing math and spelling games. In Atlanta, parent Carl Fields says his daughter uses technology in almost every one of her classes.

“She has her own laptop, and everything is done on Google Drive now, so she very rarely has to write anything. It’s just primarily all a laptop, computer or tablet,” he says.

Daryl Jackson and his wife are raising 11 children in Atlanta. The Marketplace survey shows most parents — about three-fourths — think technology in school will help children in their future careers.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Jackson says. “I wish I had it back when I was in school, I think I would be a lot more successful than I am now — not that I’m doing too shabby.”

Also, the majority of parents — more than 71 percent — say technology has improved the “overall quality of education.”

Technology for school has also allowed the helicopter parent to go digital — no more hiding the report card in the bottom of the backpack. Manny Garcia of Los Angeles has a 12-year-old and 16-year-old. Like most parents, he uses tech to track what’s happening at school .

“I do check on their grades all the time,” he says. “The good thing about that is that they’re always good. So I don’t worry too much about that.”

But some parents are proudly unplugged, like Kerry Martin in Chicago. She says there’s not a computer in her home.

“You’ve got to do it the old-fashioned way,” she says. “We don’t use the internet for things like math and science. You’ve got to dig down and get it done.”

For all its advantages, technology has also given parents a new set of worries. Beth Sanders is the mother of a third grade student in Washington, D.C., and says she has to monitor her son carefully.

“It’s easy for him to just get on YouTube or search for ‘Minecraft’ videos when he should be doing his work, so I have to stand over him and make sure he’s looking at what he’s supposed to be looking at,” she says.

For Dominique Bell, who has a 11th grade student in a Chicago high school, “auto-correct is the devil,” she says. About 40 percent of the parents we surveyed say they worry school tech makes their child too reliant on technology, and only 57 percent say technology for school has improved critical thinking skills.

“It’s not teaching them to critically think. If they want to know the answer, they can just Google the answer instead of just actually having to figure it out or rely on themselves,” Bell says.

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