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Old school: Value of traditional learning resources

Technology moves the world forward, but are teens too plugged-in when it comes to their education?

Teen with laptop

Before you lose your teen to a strictly digital school of thought, find out how traditional learning resources — versus information and communications technology — really stack up when it comes to your child’s education.

Traditional learning vs. non-traditional learning

Since the very first school bell rang, students have been learning just fine with the basic educational resources for generations — in-person lectures, hands-on learning, personal lecture notes, textbooks, library usage and student-to-student collaboration. However, with today’s students, teens and technology are synonymous, incorporating — and in some cases replacing — traditional learning tools with email contact between peers and between students and teachers, web lecture notes, online class chat rooms, internet research and computer-based instruction. But have these new online learning tools lessened the effectiveness of a good old-fashioned education?

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Concerns with online learning

While many students sing the praises of education and technology, some parents voice concerns with this newfound way of learning, citing too many distractions when requiring students to learn on their own. Apprehensions that students may not fully engage in class knowing they can find the material online later make parents feeling less than agreeable with new non-traditional learning resources as well.

“I prefer in-class learning to online or email lectures. I find that in an online class, the information doesn’t stick because I am given the option of actually listening or paying attention,” shares Courtney Svendson, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

However, as for worries that virtual resources may cause students to miss out on social skills, today’s online curriculum makes up for this in a new way. “Online classes can be constructed to include social interaction — like discussion groups and tutorials — like in a philosophy course I took last year,” objects recent college graduate Zach Obront. But, whether or not it stacks up to traditional learning is still questionable.

Benefits of traditional learning

Regardless of how far technology takes education, there’s no disputing the value of good old-fashioned educational resources — especially when every student has their own learning style. “Overall, and as an audio-visual learner, I prefer in-class learning over online because I am more likely to give the class my full attention and efforts and actually learn the information being taught, rather than just getting the work finished,” offers Svendson. And, despite the inclusion of virtual interaction, many students prefer the human side of learning. “I prefer in-class learning because it offers that face-to-face communication that new age education does not,” shares Brian Kearney, a college student majoring in public relations and advertising. “I need to be stimulated when learning new things and in-class learning is the best way to have that.”

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Blending the two?

While it’s hard to dispute the value of traditional learning resources versus online learning, some students attest to the benefits of blending the old with the new. “I think having both types of educational resources [is] important,” shares Alexis Gambetty, a high school senior from California. “I like having the option to email my teacher if I have a question instead of having to wait until the next day. I also think it is helpful when our choir teacher texts us to let us know a time or date has changed.

“However when I took online chemistry in conjunction with a normal chemistry class, we had online homework and I found it difficult to manage. The assignments were not clear, I forgot passwords, and really struggled with it,” she adds. Instead of shunning non-traditional learning alternatives all together, embracing a balance of conventional learning and technology may be the best way to get teens to the head of the class.

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