Friday, October 11, 2013

Technology: The Final Frontier

"All adventures, especially those into new territory, are scary." -Sally Ride

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." -Albert Einstein 

Teachers right now are dealing with new territory. It's something I'd been thinking about, and then I saw this Louis CK video being shared all over Facebook.
And he makes a really good point, about empathy in children, and what they are learning is okay behavior. I think this inability to just sit and do nothing is affecting our children's stamina to do things in the classroom, to take their time to complete work neatly, or to just listen and respond to a story. Furthermore, I think that the prevalence of technology makes it really easy for parents to let TV, or ipads or smartphones and the such raise their kids. And who can blame them, if they're holding down two jobs or using all their energy to just get their families basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter? It's also too easy for privileged parents to do this as well. It takes less energy, and we're living in a society of instant gratification and laziness. Sure, it may take less time to placate a child with a tablet, than actually turn it into a learning experience and teach a kid about feelings, and how to problem solve. But taking the easy way out is just going to lead to problems later on...problems that surface in school where students need to start interacting face to face with other students, and they don't have the stimulation of constant technology.

All this technology is new territory--we have never had a generation grow up only knowing the existence of the internet, cell phones, computers, and televisions. Technology is great--it allows for some really neat educational opportunities, and ways of communicating with others that were not previously possible. But there is a time and a place for technology, and we need to not let it take over our lives so much that little kids can't just sit respectfully. I'm going to go out on a limb and make a likely bogus and totally unsupported (to my knowledge) claim: technology is related to--and may be helping to cause-- the rise in ADHD as well as various other behavioral disorders.

We know that listening to a real human being helps young children learn language better than anything recorded in any way. I read somewhere-- not quite sure where-- that many TV shows these days that theoretically have good lessons imbedded in are in fact modeling the wrong behavior to kids. It has to do with screen time--too much time is spent on the conflict before being wrapped up quickly, that children are learning to behave by what they see more of, rather than learning how to actually solve issues. (Similarly, the saying that "all press is good press" is true--candidates whose campaign ads bash the opponent can actually help your opponent. You're giving him screen time, and that, in the long run, means more than the actual content of the ad.) So our students, instead of learning how to interact with others by interacting with others, are receiving non-authentic lessons from videos that model more undesirable behavior than desirable. They are also living in a world where they have constant stimulus--that's not always that valuable.

And we wonder why kids can't sit still, or lack empathy. My advice to parents: limit the TV watching and spend one-on-one time with your kids. Instead of TV, have them write, draw, do puzzles, play with blocks, look at books, and let them use their creativity and imagination. Read to them. Talk to them. Involve them. It doesn't have to take extra time out of your day--point things out when you're driving places. Talk to them in the grocery store. Ask them how their day was. Model kindness and empathy. Reward positive behavior, and provide consequences for poor choices. Have them take responsibility for themselves--cleaning up their own messes, and helping out around the house. Be around as much as you can, and talk about the importance of school. Don't get them a cell phone until it's a necessity, and don't get them a smartphone until much later.

Technology has it's place--but it drives me nuts when I put on a video, and all of a sudden students are quiet and paying attention. These kids are being raised with constant instant gratification and tons of stimuli--too much really. It's sad that they can pay better attention to a screen, then to a real, live human being. That being said, technology can be great, and a good teaching tool. The problem is, we're trying to prepare children for the 21st century using technology from the dark ages. Case in point: my computer on my desk in my classroom has a floppy disc drive. Yup.

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