Ed Neuroscience

Popular education myths every parent should know - 3

Do you think that the younger generation is “just better” with technology or that we all have one specific way we learn best? Are these euphemisms true or are they myths? And, how do they stand up against scientific evidence?

Myth 7: Laptops are bad for learning

You might remember getting in trouble in high school for using your cell phone during class. There is a pervasive idea that students using information technology (i.e., mobile phones, laptops) in the classroom is bad for learning because students might get distracted and therefore not learn.

However, there is a lot of research that suggests otherwise. When information technology is specifically used for learning purposes, it can be very beneficial impact on learning.

For example, large-scale meta-analytic studies looked at the effects of learning via mobile tools such as mobile applications and laptops on education. Authors accumulated 110 articles spanning 20 years (1993-2013). Results showed a positive overall effect of learning with mobile devices on student learning and education, suggesting students have a pretty strong benefit of using these technologies for learning.

In fact, many studies have shown that when comparing the effects of learning with mobile technology to that of learning with traditional pen-and-paper approaches, students end up learning more with mobile tools!

Learning with technology is becoming more and more integrated into educational contexts and this trend is only expected to grow in the future. This is because mobile tools are easy to use, offer personalized learning, and allow learners to learn at their own pace.

As the world and everything in it—including education and learning—becomes more and more digital, it is likely that this myth will soon become completely obsolete.

Myth 8: More engagement = better learning

It is often assumed that more student engagement in the classroom equals more learning. This belief is based on the idea that students who are actively participating in class, asking questions, and being involved in discussions are more likely to understand and retain the material later on.

However, scientific evidence suggests just because students are engaged, doesn’t always mean they’re learning.

Research has shown that there is a distinction between surface-level and deep-level engagement. In surface-level engagement, students are participating in class but not necessarily understanding or retaining the material, whereas in deep-level engagement, students are actively thinking critically and applying what they learn.

Students who use a deep-level approach may not always be the most active in class, however they may still be applying deep-level strategies such as making new connections between material and applying it. These students are shown to learn and understand the material better than others.

Additionally, research suggests that there are other factors that are more important than engagement in determining student learning outcomes.

For example, student-centered teaching methods are where students are actively involved in constructing their own understanding of the material. This approach has been shown to lead to deeper understanding and better long-term retention than traditional, teacher-centered methods.

Overall, there are many factors that influence learning. As we research them further, we will soon forget about this myth.

Myth 9: Younger people are more tech savvy

We have probably all been guilty of assuming that the younger generation is better with technology than older generations. This perception is based on the idea that younger people have grown up with technology and therefore have a natural inclination towards it.

However, this assumption is not entirely true. This assumption may also not be entirely fair, as there are many young people around the world who lack access to technology.

For example, studies have shown that older adults are open and motivated to using technology and can be just as competent as younger adults. Additionally, older adults may also have more patience and perseverance when it comes to learning new things, which can be beneficial when it comes to mastering new technologies.

In fact, randomized control studies suggest that when designing technology training programs for older adults, they are more likely to accept and use the technology compared to control groups who did not receive the training. This suggests that older adults are just as competent as younger to use and implement tech in their daily lives.

Technology use is also linked to many positive outcomes for older adults, such as  decreased loneliness and decreased social isolation. Thus, they have a sustained benefit for using technology.

Myth 10: We all have one learning style

It is often assumed that individuals have one specific learning style, and that they learn best when information is presented in a way that aligns with that style. For instance, you may think you’re a visual learner and that you learn best when you see information presented visually such as diagrams.

But the research does not back this assumption up completely.

For example, multisensory learning is a learning strategy whereby information is learned via multiple presentations such as auditory and visual. Research shows that this strategy is much more beneficial when compared to only learning with one strategy. This suggests that you learn better when you have multiple streams of information rather than learning via one input.

Research also suggests that individuals may also adapt their learning strategies depending on the task or information they are presented with and what they have to prepare for. This means that learning strategies are not fixed and can vary depending on the task at hand.

In addition, there is not always a 1-1 relationship between subjective learning style and objective measures. For example, when self-reported visual learners are asked to perform and objective task that measures visual learning (i.e., spatial navigation), they don’t perform as well. This means that although we may think we are a visual learning, this belief may not stand up to objective measures.

Because styles are typically measured with self-report questionnaires where individuals mark down which style they think they learn best with, this may introduce bias. For starters, individuals may not be entirely honest about their true learning style. Research has shown that students may report having different styles at different times. This suggests these measures, and students’ perceptions of their learning styles, are not entirely valid or reliable.

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