Technology grew to be a pivotal, yet sometimes detrimental, component of the education system in the last 10 years.

by Kelly Murphy

Teachers and students came and went with the 2010s, but the decade’s sweeping impact on education can still be seen at East. Technology stood at the forefront of change, according to social studies teacher Nick Paris — which began in the fall of 2014 as iPads were introduced to elementary and middle schools, and MacBooks to high schools.

New technology like the MacBooks, according to Paris, contributed to increased student stimulation and interest over the decade. Paris himself was more of a “lecture and have the students take notes” kind of teacher when he taught at Trailridge Junior High. But that started to change when he began teaching at East in 1985.

“I noticed that there were more teachers at East who went project-based, where they would let students choose a little bit more,” Paris said.

Since then, he has adapted his lesson plans to include role-play games and projects where students can choose their own topics.

Many teachers, including social studies teacher Shannon Nolan, have integrated technology into their classrooms to keep their students accountable for their own learning.

“Students are starting to be expected to learn and remember things on their own versus having everything given to them,” Nolan said. “So I think that’s kind of a change that we’re progressing to overtime.”

Other teachers like Paris and social studies teacher Brenda Fishman aren’t quite as technologically savvy. Fishman still feels behind the learning curve with technology, so she prefers to give most assignments on paper.

“I learn a lot from my students,” Fishman said. “I asked, ‘Now what do I do?’ the other day and somebody said, ‘You have to use three fingers to change the screen.’ I don’t understand how it knows three fingers from two.”

Technology’s impact was also apparent outside of the classroom during the decade of flip phones and desktop computers, according to 2010 East graduate Tim Shedor.

“Facebook was a huge part of our lives by senior year,” Shedor said. “By 2010, if you weren't tagged in a photo over the weekend it was like, ‘Oh, that’s weird. I wonder if they were sick.’”

Despite the fact that technology has brought more interactivity and connectivity to East, it has been detrimental to student attentiveness from 7:40 a.m. to 2:40 p.m., according to Fishman. Even though Fishman’s only confiscated around 12 phones this year, she, Paris and Nolan agree that classroom management is much more challenging with AirPods and cell phones.

“As soon as [their phone] blinks or shines or flashes, they're on it, and I think that's kind of a detriment to studying because [they] can't focus,” Fishman said.

Another negative outcome of the students having the world at their fingertips, to Paris, is that they also have the answers at their fingertips.

“Like 10 years ago, someone just happened to mention, ‘Oh that's okay, I'll just take a picture [of the worksheet],’” Paris said. “Ding! A red-alarm bell went off [in my head] that first time when it happened and I realized, ‘God, kids can share information like crazy.’ So yeah, it's a challenge, you have to be really alert.”

Face-to-face interactions, said Fishman, have become secondary to on-screen ones. Seeing kids in the hallways with headphones on and playlists turned all the way up, completely oblivious to friends who try to say hello, disappoints her.

“I hardly ever ask kids to stop talking, which [is] kind of sad because the kids don't socialize with each other,” Fishman said.

What will come next is unknown, according to Paris — but especially so considering nothing to the degree of this increase in technological use has happened before. He’s both afraid and hopeful.

“I'm afraid that [we] might become even more reliant on technology,” Paris said. “But, I’m hopeful that [teachers] will keep on just using technology, without allowing it to dominate education.”

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