The Costs and Benefits of Digitizing Our Schools

Is the current era of education too cluttered with digital devices and sidetracked by the internet? Two students argue each side.

9 mins read

This story is syndicated from The Messenger, the newspaper of Northview High School in Duluth, GA. The original version of the story ran here.

Art credit: Emilee Leffew and Sandra Xinyu Ye


Everett Baumann

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the world had no choice but to go digital. No matter what grade you were in, or what school you attended, the way students learned changed in an instant. The traditional ways in which teachers and students connected–offline learning–was quickly replaced with the digitization of the modern world. As a society, we were forced to adapt to online textbooks, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and other various platforms required to continue education. While this was a blessing at the time, the reality has presented itself as something much worse.

Education has become too digitalized. Students’ lives revolve around a school-issued device they are forced to stare at for hours a day. A 2021 study in the journal “Sustainability” found nearly 80% of students spent less than five hours per day in front of their school computer before COVID-19. But after, they were spending up to 10 hours per day on their screens for learning.

Here in Fulton County, the county provides students from pre-K through 12th grade with devices. A decade ago, there was no such thing, and just a few short years ago, elementary school students shared class sets of computers. So, how were these students learning before? With physical textbooks, lessons on the whiteboard, and paper and pencil copies of assignments. Starting in sixth grade today, students are forced to use their devices for hours at a time, if they aim to get their work done.

This issue has only been compounded by the rise of online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and others. Widely used both during and after the pandemic, these platforms enable the future of digital learning.

What have been the effects of this online world? If you read the headlines you’ll know: standardized test scores have plummeted, the gap between low and high-poverty student performance has widened, and mental health has become a widespread crisis.

The over-digitalization of education takes away the opportunity for teachers to create pure learning experiences with their students. It is harder for a teacher and students to cultivate relationships over time if all the students do is stare at a screen. According to an essay published in the “Stanford Report” by Professor Antero Garcia, Young people are measured more as metrics for attendance and meeting academic progress standards than as human beings.

And who exactly is behind the screen? It is an endless stream of data all being stored on a platform under constant review. We don’t know who is tracking it, and there is very sensitive information including names, addresses, and other information which is sitting on a cloud that for-profit education companies create. We do not know who has access to our data or what is being done with the data. For the safety of today’s students, we need to be vigilant in protecting private information.

Even standardized tests that feel like they’ve been around since the dawn of time are making the switch. Starting in February 2024, the ACT will have a digital option for its test. Starting in the spring of 2024, the SAT is going completely digital, doing away with nearly 100 years of tradition.

This era of digital education is more detrimental to today’s youth than ever. If we continue down this path, we don’t know what’s in the future for our society. Test scores have already dropped, and the mental health crisis has only grown, and students will continue to fall into a pit of despair. We must ask ourselves, where do we go from here?


Emilee Leffew

Some members of the older generation, and even some from the younger, have come to believe students are getting off easy: being able to type their work, use artificial intelligence and other online resources, etc. Some believe these resources are making students lazier and not allowing them to learn as much as they have in the past. But the use of technology in school can be helpful towards student’s learning and their development of new skills.

The use of technology in schools has proven to have many positive effects on not only students’ abilities to learn but also their interest in learning.

In June 2020, the American University located in Washington D.C. released an article claiming some of the positive effects of digital learning to be an increase in collaboration and communication between students and making students more curiosity-driven by using engaging content.

Technology has also been shown to not only be helpful for students but has also provided great aid for teachers.

The increased use of technology in schools has been revealed to help improve teacher productivity and efficiency and allows for them to have more one-on-one time and personalized communication, not only with their students but also with the parents of students and their colleagues. Technology allowed teachers to create more fun and engaging ways to teach students and create assignments that let teachers be more creative and show off their individual talents.

Another important benefit to online learning is the ability for students to receive their education in a much more personalized way.

Through the use of technology, students are allowed to find and use information, programs, and techniques tailored to their individual needs, interests, and learning styles. This personalization aids students to not only display their individualism but also helps them gain as much information as possible through the use of their own methods and styles.

Not only does online school help students within the school itself, but it also helps them develop many practical skills for later in life–one of the most important being how to be responsible online.

Over the past few years, parents have been greatly concerned for the safety of youths online. Especially in such a digital age, there are so many forms of media for students to use, and each one can present great dangers. However, the introduction of technology in the classroom has helped to combat this issue.

According to an article released by the University of the People, the use of online resources in controlled environments, such as classrooms, provided great aid for online threats. These controlled environments allowed teachers to teach their students how to not only be safe and responsible online but also how to create the best, most positive impact online. This helps students not only be safer online, but gives them a chance to practice finding the most useful, trusting information online, communicate, and interact effectively and safely.

Though the use of technology in schools is frowned upon by many, it has come to be one of the most effective and helpful resources for teachers and students. Allowing for effective communication, collaboration, more engagement and interest, a chance to show individualism, and can provide students with other practical real-world skills, such as online safety.

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