World Bytes

World Bytes: Is Digital Technology Eroding Students’ Ability to Learn?

By Terrance Malkinson

Is the rampant use of digital technology eroding students’ ability to learn? Dr. Michael Rich (Promise and Perils of Technology – Part 1), associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Dr. Paul Howard-Jones (Promise and Perils of Technology – Part 2), a neuroscientist from the University of Bristol (U.K.), explored this question in their 2012 presentations to the Alberta Teachers Association. Polls of educators suggest that, while they appreciate how technology enhances instruction, they also believe it is also becoming a barrier. Children are less ready to learn, they are fatigued from lack of sleep, are cognitively challenged, addicted to technology, unable to think independently, have lost the ability to perform basic conversational, writing and math skills, and are easily distracted. Additionally, technology can result in a less physically active lifestyle, potentially resulting in childhood obesity, digital eye strain, damaging posture, early onset acute and chronic illness and in some cases early mortality. In many cases, technology is so ingrained that people see little difference between texting and face-to-face conversation. Research is ongoing on the impact that technology is having on education, personal development, and interpersonal communication. Technology skills are essential in today’s world. The challenge is to harness the power of technology in a more balanced way to benefit the development of the individual. Good technology management skills learned in the early years will be beneficial throughout an individual’s life. How to achieve that balance is critical.

What do you think? Is digital technology eroding students’ ability to learn, and if so, how can balance can be achieved?

Other Bytes

  • McKinsey and Company published its March 2016 snapshot of Global Survey of Economic Conditions []. This article offers insights into what executives are thinking about where national and global economies are heading. Caution and uncertainty are the predominant themes; primarily a result of slowing growth in China. Survey respondents (n=2772) tended to be pessimistic with 48% expecting global conditions are worse while 21% believe global conditions are better, and 31% believing that conditions remained the same compared with predictions made six months ago. Expectations vary greatly by region and by industry. Executives from developed markets were more likely to be negative than those from their emerging market peers.
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  • Fortune provides its annual ranking of America’s greatest workplaces [“The 100 Best Companies to Work For,” Levering, R., 173(4):141-204, 15 March 2016,]. Leading the ranking is Google followed by Acuity Insurance and Quicken Loans. Profiles of each of the best workplaces are provided.
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Terrance Malkinson is a communications specialist, business analyst and futurist. He is an IEEE Senior Life Member and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the World Future Society. He is currently an international correspondent for IEEE-USA InSight, an associate editor for IEEE Canadian Review, editor-in-chief IEEE TEMS Leader, and a member of the editorial advisory board of the IEEE Institute. Additionally, he leads a number of applied research projects. The author is grateful to the staff and resources of the Reg Erhardt library at SAIT Polytechnic and the Haskayne Business Library of the University of Calgary. He can be reached at

Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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