As an educator this video boils my blood! I do not dispute the claims and statistics that are starkly presented here. I acknowledge the power that technology has to teach and I agree that our educational system is sorely in need of reform. I just think the conclusions that are drawn are wildly off base. What this video says to me is "Let's spend money to put computers in our classrooms, but continue to pay teachers a pittance to compete with these digital influences."
My first experience with computers in the classroom was in my very first preschool class. A computer was donated to the LEAP school, and it made the rounds from room to room with several educational games for the students to play. In our class we made a turn-list and set a 5 minute time limit for each turn. Let me share two observations:
1) I could tell those students who were accustomed to playing on the computer. They knew exactly what to do, where to insert the DVD's how to scroll through menus and directions and these were three year olds! The funny thing was, that these were the children who threw startling fits when they were forced to abdicate their turn. Our culture is just starting to recognize video game addiction as a serious problem. I shutter to think what these, now teenaged, video junkies will have to deal with in their life.
2) In this classroom there was a boy who was on the mild end of the autistic spectrum. At three, he was still hanging in with most of his classmates, but by the end of the year it was clear that he would only fall farther and farther behind as they matured. One of the main goals that we worked towards was to facilitate social interaction for this boy. He would be content to live in his own world, but what he desperately need was to model social behavior. Watching this boy play the computer was staggering. For a child who needed constant support for even the simplest classroom tasks, he was a whiz on the computer. He clearly excelled beyond many of his classmates. This may sound like a victory, and using these tools in the appropriate way would be great, but the flip side is that he was completely isolated while playing video games. The room could have been on fire and this boy would have continued to match shapes and colors. What would happen to him in the future? Yes, perhaps he could find a job in programming or graphic design, but could he walk down the street and buy a carton of milk? The most important element of school for this boy was being with other kids. Let him shine on the computer when he's at home.
This year I have noticed a dramatic shift in my struggle to compete with technology. It is due in part to the fact that I was dealing with older, wealthier children this summer at Rock and Roll Camp. It was shocking to me to see how many 7 year olds showed up to camp with iPhones. They would stealthily appear in the middle of a class and I would find these tech-addled 'tweens unable pay attention for more than 10 minutes without playing with some gadget, surfing the web, or just stroking the phone like Gollum from Lord of The Rings (seriously!). It wasn't like I was trying to teach these kids linear algebra, we were learning, playing and making music.
When I put my foot down and removed all iPhones from the classroom, it was an amazing shift. The kids were attentive, and enjoyed playing actual games as opposed to the virtual ones. That isn't to say that there wasn't a scary "withdrawal" period where I was vilified for expecting my students to pay attention to what was actually going on!
When I see the statistics that are touted in the video above, my first instinct isn't "Great! let's give these kids more opportunities to plug in!" I'd like to combat these statistics with some others:
- A classroom with 30 students will have between 1 and 3 children with ADHD.
- Boys are diagnosed with ADHD 3 times more often than girls.
- Emotional development in children with ADHD is 30% slower than in their non-ADD peers. This means that a child that is 10 years old will have the emotional development of a 7 year old, a 20 year old will have the emotional maturity of a 14 year old.
There are also studies that show 70% of children in america are not getting enough vitamin D because they will spend on average 50% less time outdoors as my generation did 20 years ago. Between 1980 and 2006 the rate of childhood obesity has increased from 5% to 17%. One in three of these children will go on to develop type 2 diabetes in their life time.
In addition to the annoyance factor of having my young rockers constantly pulling out their iPhones, you'd be shocked to see some of the things they were surfing onto. Every song that they would ask to play had copious swearing, every video they would watch would be violent, sexually inappropriate, or include confusing mature content. Children see 20-25 acts of violence in "children's television" each hour. I've had to speak to parents about 3-4 year olds imitating sexually inappropriate behavior that they picked up watching High School Musical.
The Mike Brady Wrap-up: I am in no way saying that I think technology and education are at odds with each other. I actually find it to be a very powerful tool in learning. I just think our society is obsessed with instant gratification and technology's ability to deliver this. I think a clear example is the difference between watching a kid play guitar hero and actually play guitar (which I see each day at the Live! School). Kids are much less likely to strive to get better at actually playing guitar these days because it's a challenge. Anyone who's learned to play an instrument and has overcome this challenge knows how much more rewarding it is than getting a high score on a video game. There is nothing creative about guitar hero, even though music is involved. It is a slippery slope once technology is introduced into a classroom. Children are much more tech savvy then their teachers, and when asked to compete with an internet browser the teacher will loose every time. Kids will find a way to bend the rules and access questionable material when they should be paying attention and respect to their teachers. Cyber-bullying, video game addiction, diminished attention span, and dwindling creativity are the result of a society that is too plugged in.
Cut the cord and send them outside before it is too late!
Kid Quote of the Day: "I didn't get to sleep last night until really late! My sister woke up me, woke up my mom, woke up my dad. When she went to be, then I couldn't sleep. I couldn't fall asleep until I fell asleep!" ~Khami (age: 8)