Too User Friendly: How Apps Are Stifling Learning

STEM Needs More Than Devices

Many schools are quickly adopting to the ease and portability of devices in their classroom. While devices do offer learning opportunities, they can also be problematic. But there is one issue that seems to continually be overlooked specifically in STEM classrooms – apps are stifling learning.

Devices are too user friendly for STEM educators, and this is a problem.. While being user friendly may look positive (who wants technology problems when trying to run a tech-heavy lesson), a very important part of learning is lost with this ease. Students no longer need to troubleshoot technology.

Devices today are designed so that anyone, and everyone, can pick one up. This includes the 4 year old wanting to watch a movie, and the 70 year old who has never owned a smartphone before. From the user interface to the obsessive updates, apps don’t have many user issues.

It is completely possible that a student today can go through their lives at home, and at school, and never touch a laptop or desktop computer. Yet many places of work, especially STEM jobs, heavily rely on computers over devices. These same jobs also value troubleshooting as an extremely valuable skill.

Unfortunately, students going through school today are missing out on the experiences they need to troubleshoot technology. They are learning and problem solving, but they are not experiencing the  gritty frustration that comes with computers.

Schools that offer STEM courses need to recognize that troubleshooting is not only a positive, but a necessary skill students will need to survive in STEM jobs outside public education. Districts need to pause when considering a full device overhaul, and recognize that devices may not offer the best learning opportunities for all students. Otherwise our students are being sent forth into a complex world of technology, without one of the necessary skills to excel.

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