Forget ‘The Dog Ate My Homework’ NOW the excuse is ‘My Laptop Isn’t Charged’

says Mr. Z, a high school teacher. He hears it everyday, as schools embrace technology and use it for daily lessons. But this excuse highlights the raging controversy: is eschewing paper and pens and teaching students on computers really the best policy?IMG_5525

Studies are showing that now, the most important lesson that must be taught is how to use technology as a tool, not a crutch. Even the inventors of this technology are speaking out about the dangers of screen time for kids. A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge In Silicon Valley.

A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a region wide consensus: benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K.

Technologists have decided they don’t want their children using cell phones! Most of the inventors interviewed in this New York Times article say they severely limit their kid’s screen time. The addictive qualities of personal communication devices, social media and the internet seem to outweigh the benefits of instantly accessing information.

Rather than foisting even more screen time on students, schools need to teach critical reading and the analytical skill of evaluating information sources, so kids know what information is credible.  Otherwise we are forming a nation of kids who do not know how to interact socially and can be duped any time by statements from unknown sources blasted across social media.

I now get an (unwanted) monitoring of my screen time and a weekly report from my  iPhone. It’s not just a factual report of my activity either. The unwanted program congratulates me when my screen time is down; even the technology itself is saying – ‘use me but not too often’. So why are schools still increasing the amount of time kids spend looking at a screen? Yet another socio-econmic gap is being created: The Digital Gap Between Rich and Poor Kids is Not What We Expected.

Public schools are increasing screen time for kids while the “rich schools” are banning it altogether. People (well MOMS!) in Kansas are making a START – Stand Together And Rethink Technology. The article says poor preschoolers are stuck in front of screens and rich kids are given wooden toys and paints!

Savvy teachers like Mr. Z are continuing to seek the proper balance and teach students the necessary skills of analytical thinking and source evaluation and – not really pc right now — DISCIPLINE.  Students must learn to control their own time on their screens. Mr. Z. alerted me to yet another article analyzing the effectiveness of technology as a teaching tool in the classroom screen time backlash.

A 2015 report from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development found that countries that invested heavily in computer technology for schools showed “no appreciable improvements” in reading, math or science, and that technology “is of little help in bridging the skills divide between advantaged and disadvantaged students.”

Even the personalized learning afforded by the use of technology is not enough of a benefit to boost the results of screen time learning. Study after study shows it is not improving educational outcomes.

Adults are battling too much screen time as well. Most of us log many hours on screens for work and pleasure. But studies are showing that while portable devices for reading ebooks are still in use in great numbers, readers are turning back to paper due to screen fatigue.

Anybody out there read a good book lately?

© Jane F. Collen November 18, 2018  Teaching Critical Reading and Thinking

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