Only a few months in, the newly elected school board trustees are already taking students in the wrong direction.
Trustees and administration seem to have taken the bait—hook, line, and sinker—of the lure of the techno age and think that turning the classroom into a scene from The Jetsons will somehow help the students and boost the district’s slumping ratings.
The district’s reasoning for expanding Internet technology in the classroom seems to be merely so students can learn through a few games and stories. While games are definitely an effective way at educating young minds, there are plenty of tried and true ways of educating kids without the use of technological devices, and the science appears to show that the distractive online environment would negate any benefits of online education.
Surprisingly, and disappointingly, the district has not researched, much less asked, what effects the online environment is having on children, so as to determine whether or not it is appropriate to be foisting a relatively new technology on them. A quick Internet search or a walk through the library produces ample information.
“What concerns me is the mode of thinking that the online world encourages, with its emphasis on speed, multitasking, skimming, and scanning,” said Nicholas Carr, an American business, technology, and culture writer in an interview with Project Information Literacy April 4, 2011. “The web provides little encouragement or opportunity for quieter, more attentive ways of thinking, such as contemplation, reflection, introspection. Those ways of thinking used to be considered the essence of the human intellect. Now they’re seen as dispensable…. As a technology, a book focuses our concentration, isolates us from the many distractions that fill our everyday lives. A networked computer does the opposite. As a multimedia, hypermedia, interactive-messaging system, it’s designed to scatter our attention. It doesn’t shield us from environmental distractions; it adds to them. The words on a computer screen exist in a welter of contending stimuli.”
According to Carr and several other researchers of the Internet’s affect on our highly plasticized brains, repeated experiences in online environments ultimately reshape our brains to be more impulsive, distracted, and addicted (there are even techno addiction centres for children), diminishing our capacity for critical and deep thinking, inductive reasoning as well as creativity. Furthermore, studies show that the web’s multitude of fragments and snippets of information coupled with the habitually speedy browsing habits of users overloads our short-term memory, negatively affecting cognitive function.
Is this what the school district wants, to raise a generation of inattentive, anti-social, shortsighted, shallow thinkers who have the feeble ability to speedily operate an iPad, which any Joe and his dog can learn to operate in a short time?
Interestingly, some giant tech employees and CEOs are also aware of what the Internet is doing to our brains. Waldorf School of the Peninsula in California educates the students of employees of Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Yahoo, and the chief technology officer of eBay. And get this, Waldorf teachers don’t even employ the use of computers. They even discourage their students from using computers at home. Instead, Waldorf’s philosophy focuses on physical education and creative learning through a hands-on approach—no laptops, no hand-held devices, no iPods…nothing.
“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” Waldorf parent Alan Eagle told the New York Times Oct. 22, 2011. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”
It’s imperative that school district 58 educators do some research on the Internet’s affect on brains before they start to throw out the chalkboards, pens, and paper and replace them with costly electronic devices.