The myth that “students are comfortable with technology” is prevalent and problematic

Among the common misconceptions in education is that students are comfortable with technology, and therefore implementing blended learning doesn’t require helping students make the transition. For example, a 90 second Google search returned this quote about students and technology: “Many students have grown up around technology and feel comfortable with it. Don't be embarrassed that they may know more about technology than you do. Welcome opportunities to learn from them.”

In reality, students often have to become comfortable learning in new ways—as much as teachers have to become comfortable with new methods of instruction.

This point is made by Diane Tavenner, the founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools, in an interview with The Hechinger Report.

“Kids are literally making decisions about how they are going to learn and when they are going to learn. They are so engaged that it is spilling into the rest of their life and it [learning] is 24/7. We are about three years in, and it’s taken that long for kids to really break free of that old model.”

Students may generally be more comfortable with laptops, tablets, and smartphones than some adults. But that doesn’t mean that all students are comfortable with these devices at any level, and it doesn’t mean that most students are comfortable with the educationally appropriate use of these devices. It’s one thing for a student to know how to watch a video on her tablet, but a very different task to watch an animation explaining a science concept, analyze it, perhaps annotate it, and learn from it. In addition, many educators have found that although eventually students learn to take control of their learning as they gain agency over time and path, that process usually takes time. In the meantime, students need direction and support as they become comfortable with the new blended learning model.

In other words, students have to (first) be comfortable with the technology, (second) they have to understand the educational use of the technology, and (third) they have to adjust to new instructional methods that use technology. Expecting that they will quickly and easily make the transition to blended learning is a recipe for failure.