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PersonalThoughtsonTechnologywithStudents

PaulMcNees
EDUC471/Spring2016
1/23/2016

IamcurrentlyworkingataprivatestartupschoolinSanFranciscothatisattemptingto
reimagineeducationthroughtheimplementationofcopiousamountsoftechnologybothasa
pedagogicalplatformand,ofcourse,fortrackingstudentprogressandpersonalization.Thisis
aninterestingpositionformesinceIhavealwayshadaparadoxicalrelationshipwith
technology.ThoughinmypersonalandcreativelifeIusecopiousamountsoftechnology,Icast
ascepticaleyetowardstheuseoftechnologyasatoolfor
learning
.Thatsaid,Icanappreciate
theuseoftechnologyasamechanismfor
supportings
tudentswhohavemoderate/severe
disabilities.FromwhatIhaveseenthusfarintoa25yearteachingcareertherehasbeen
nothingintroducedintoeducationthusfarfromthetechsectorthatcomesclosetoreplacingthe
oneofthemostimportantaspectoflearningrelationship.Supportingisadifferentmatter
entirely.InformingmyviewpointisalsomylonghistoryasaMontessoriteacher.Montessori
wasafirmbelieverinengagingchildrenwiththematerialworld.Theuseofmanipulatives
(whichisjustnowcatchingonintraditionalpubliceducation)isconsideredtobeanintegral
aspecttoachildsabilitytounderstandconcepts.Oneneedonlyexaminewordsthatare
synonymouswiththementalactivityoflearningtoseetheimportanceofthehandsinteracting
withtherealworld:to
grasp
inideato
grapple
withaconceptto
embracea
thoughtto
apprehend
anewtheoryetc.Thirdly,Iamwaryoftheneurologicaleffectsofyoungchildrenof
screentime.RarelyhaveIseenachildbecomevolatilewhenspendingtimewithblocksor
puzzlesorreadingabook.Pullingachildawayfromascreen,however,isanothermatter
entirely.

Relationship
Thereisnopedagogyorcurriculumthatisteacherproof.Abadteachercandestroythebest
laidplans.Ontheotherhand,ateacherthatcreatespositiverelationshipswiththeirstudents
canworkmagicwiththemostbasiccurricula.Anumberofstudieshavebeenperformed
concerningtheeffectsofpositiveteacherstudentrelationshipsuponacademicperformance.
Mostofthesestudieshavetodowithmotivationandacademicperformance.Thecruxofthe
ideaisthis:Whenateacherdemonstratestoastudentthatshebelievesinhimandthatshe
caresabouthiswellbeing,thestudentwilltendtoperformbetterthanstudentswhohavepoor
relationshipswiththeirteachers.Onestudylookedattheeffectuponadolescents,

It appears that for adolescents a sense of emotionalsecuritywithteachersand utilization of teachers as


emotional and school supports is associated with greater sense ofcontrol, autonomy, andengagement in
school. In this sense, thestudyemphasizes howmuchschoolingis an interpersonalas wellasacognitive
enterprise and, more specifically the realworld importance of students underlying beliefs that teachers
representsourcesofinterpersonalsupport.(1)

This aspect of learningiscurrentlynotsomethingthattechnologycanprovide. NordoIseethis


being provided by any form of technology in the near future. Onemayarguethattheeffectsof
poor teaching would be overridden by technology becausehumanfallibility isremovedfromthe
equation. So, in a sense, Im disproving my own argument by saying that this is correct.
However, as an educational therapist, there is no electronicprogram thatwouldliftthespiritsof
a child who hasbeencontinuallybeatendown byhisfailuresthereisnoappthatwould beable
to smile and humor a child whose selfesteem has been shattered by being unable to read.
Once those children have lifted their chin, have learned to smile again in the presence of a
book, have learned to be comfortable with numbers, then technology can be used to support
whatisgivenorganicallybytheteacher.

ScreensversusManipulatives

Iamundernoillusionthatthroughthesoleuseofmanipulatives,childrencanbecomeavid
mathematicians.Again,goodteachingplaysaroleinbridgingtheconcretetotheabstract.The
materialsmust
represent
whatthestudentisexperiencinginthesymbolicrealm.Oncethe
process
ofactuallytakingbeadsawayfromaquantityismentallyandphysicallyassociatedwith
the
concept
ofsubtraction,studentscanpicturetheconcreteintheirmindseyeuntilthe
algorithmgainsadegreeofautomaticity.Thiscanonlybedonewithskilledteachinginthe
threedimensionalworld.Researchershavedefinedthisprocessasdualrepresentation.

Thecentraltenetofthisconceptisthatallsymbolicobjectshaveadualnaturetheyaresimultaneously
objectsintheirownrightandrepresentationsofsomethingelse.Touseasymbolicobjecteffectively,one
mustfocusmoreonwhatthesymbolisintendedtorepresentandlessonitsphysicalproperties.For
(children),dualrepresentationpresentsanimportantdevelopmentalchallenge.Childrenmustlearntofocus
onwhatasymbolicobjectrepresents,notjustontheobjectsinherentproperties.Researchondual
representationshedssignificantlightonfactorsthathelpchildrentomakeconnectionsbetweensymbols
andtheirreferents.(2)

However,computer/tabletgamesforgainingfluencyinmathematicaloperationshasmetwitha
certaindegreeofsuccess.Therefewactivitiesasboringaslearningmathfacts.Childrenrarely
havethepatienceortheinteresttolearnthembyrote,whichisreallytheonlywaytobecome
fluentinmathematicaloperations.Childrenwhohavenotlearnedtheirfactsbyacertainage
aredestinedtostruggleindefinitely,eveniftheyhaveafirmunderstandingofmathematical
concepts.Gamesthatencouragestudentstolearnfacts,however,arehighlyincentivizedand
engagingforchildren.Theredoesseemtobeaninverseratiobetweentheamountoftimeon
thescreenandacademicachievement.Thisisevidencedbyastudyfrom2010,

The current results on the effects of computer games varied by frequency of play also highlight the
importance of the properamount of time forgame play in class. When male studentsplayed mathgames
too frequentlynamely everydaythey showed low math performance. In contrast, when male students
played computer games sometimes in math class (from once amonthtotwicea week),theydemonstrated
higherperformancethanmalestudentswhodidnotplaycomputergamesatall.(3)

Theresearchtendstoconfirmmyactualexperienceworkingwithabroadrangeofabilities:
Childrenlearnbestwhengivenconcretematerialswhoseconceptsaretransferredintothe
realmofthesymbolicandtheabstract.Technologyhastheadvantageofbeingahighly
engagingmediumwithwhichtosupplementalreadygoodteaching.

Similarly,studieshaveshownthatchildrenaremorelikelytoenjoyreadingwhentheyare
presentedwithacombinationofbooksandinteractivetouchscreens.This,however,is
dependentuponwhetherornotthechildalreadyknowshowtoreadand/orhasnodifficulties
learninghowtoread.Tomyknowledge,thereisnotyetacomputerbasedprogramthatcan
replacetheskilledreadingspecialist.

EffectsofScreenTime

Thisisoneofmymainconcernsabouttheuseoftechnology/screentimewith(especially)
youngchildren.LastyeartheBBCreported,
Childrenagedfiveto16spendanaverageofsix
(4)
andahalfhoursadayinfrontofascreencomparedwitharoundthreehoursin1995.
Thisis
atopicdeservingofmoreattentionbeforeanyrealconclusionscanbereached.However,there
isdishearteninginformationcomingfromthemedical/neuropsychologicalcampsregardingthe
effectsofexcessivescreentimeonbraindevelopment.Fromthe2014article,
Extendingthe
GlobalDialogueAboutMedia,Technology,ScreenTime,andYoungChildren,readersare
warned,

The American Academy of Pediatrics (2011) estimates that neural growth occurs at a rate of 700 new
synapsespersecondduringearlychildhood,morerapidlythanatanyotherperiodoflife.Thus, exposureto
media during this period has the potential for longterm unanticipated negative consequences. The
American Academy of Pediatrics stated and reaffirmed (1999, 2011) its recommendation to discourage
media use by children younger than2 yearsofage. Children need astrongfoundation in theearlyyears,
andearlybraindevelopmentresearchshowsaneedfordirectinteractionwithcaringadults.(5)

Thewarningshavemainlybeenfocusedupontheveryyoung,butbraindevelopmentdoesnot
stopat2yearsofage,nor5,nor12.Importantexecutivefunctioningcapacitiescontinueto
developinthefrontallobeintoapersonstwenties.Thisistheregionofthebrainthatseemsto
becompromisedinthecurrentgenerationofchildren.Thenumbersofchildrenenteringschool
withexecutivefunctioningissuesisstaggering.Butisitcultural?Environmental?Arebrains
rewiringthemselves(evolving)inordertomeettheintensedemandsofaninformationrich
world?Thereisreallynowaytotell.

Thereislittleconclusiveevidenceregardinglongterm,intensiveexposuretoscreentimein
childhood.Onecanfindreportsthatdefendanyviewpoint.However,inordertobeonthesafe
sideitismyopinionthatweshouldpractice...

BalanceinAllThings

GiventherelativelyubiquitousnatureofMeTS(media,technology,andscreentime),itwasnotsurprising
tofindthesentimentthat"Prohibitingchildrenfromusingthem[MeTS]utterlyisneitherpossiblenor
expected".TherespondentfromSingaporenotedthat,"Wehaveachoiceofeitherbeingoverpowered,
terrified,anddisabledbythenewformsoftechnologyorusingthemtoouradvantageasapowerfultoolin
enhancingourpersonalandprofessionallive."However,R.House(2012)andothers(e.g.,Elkind,2007
Richtel,2011)havenotedthepotentialforlimitingtechnologyuseinschools,citingWaldorf/Steinerschools
asjustoneexample.Houseurgeseveryonetousewhatisconsideredtheprecautionaryprinciple,whereby
weacknowledgethattheharmdonebyimposingITC[informationtechnologyandcommunication]on
childrenforwhomitisdevelopmentallyinappropriatebyfaroutweighsanyharmthatwillbedonetothemby
notintroducingitwhentheycouldbedevelopmentallyreadyforit.(6)

Therearethreevaluablepointsintheabovequote:
1. Wewillneverbeabletokeepchildrenawayfromtechnology,norshouldwe.
2. Ratherthanbeafraidoftechnology,useitforitslifeenhancingcapabilities.
3. Keepitbalancedandappropriate.
DuringthewritingofthispaperIrealizedsomethingaboutmyselfandmyrelationshipto
technology.Likemyrelationshipwithspiders,Ihaveahealthyrespectfortheirbeautyandtheir
danger.Ihadjustbeguntousetechnologyasasupplementtomyeducationaltherapypractice
whenIbeganteachinginaschooloverrunbytechnology.ImfindingthatIhavenowswung
backtothestanceItookintheninetieskeepkidsawayfromscreens.Iknowthatthisisnot
theanswer.However,Ifindthatmyinstinctsaroundtheeffectsoftoomuchtechnologyhas
beenreified.Therefore,balanceiskey.
Iwillrepeat,nothingwilleverreplacegoodteaching.Goodteachingtakesplaceonlyin
relationshiptoanotherhumanbeingitinvolvesastudentinthephysicalworldwhichiswhere
ourbodiesweredesignedtoexisttherearenoneurologicalhazardstogoodteaching,itcan
onlyhelp.TechnologyisanamazingthingbutIalsofearthatwehavebeguntoworshipitin
negativeways.ItisnotthesolutiontoallofourproblemsonEarthbutitisafantastictoolfor
intelligenthumanstousetoworkonthoseproblems.

Sources

(1) Ryan,R.M.,Stiller,J.D.,&Lynch,J.H.(1994).
Representationsofrelationshipstoteachers,
parents,andfriendsaspredictorsofacademicmotivationandselfesteem.
JournalofEarly
Adolescence,14,2,226249
(2) Uttal,D.H.,ODoherty,K.,Newland,R.,Hand,L.L.,andDeLoache,J.(2009),Dual
Representation
andtheLinkingofConcreteandSymbolicRepresentations.ChildDevelopmentPerspectives
,3:
156159.doi:10.1111/j.17508606.2009.00097.x
(3) Kim,S.,&Chang,M.(2010).Computergamesforthemathachievementofdiversestudents.
JournalofEducationalTechnology&Society,13
(3),224n/a.Retrievedfrom
http://search.proquest.com/docview/1287037266?accountid=25285
(4) http://www.bbc.com/news/technology32067158
(5) Ernest,J.M.,Causey,C.,Newton,A.B.,Sharkins,K.,Summerlin,J.,&Albaiz,N.(2014).
Extendingtheglobaldialogueaboutmedia,technology,screentime,andyoungchildren.
Childhood
Education,90
(3),182191.Retrievedfrom
http://search.proquest.com/docview/1528862094?accountid=25285
(6) Ibid