There is no longer much doubt that digital technology or “screen time” takes away from the time we spend on our personal interactions in favour of our online life. You have seen it – people in trains, in restaurants, walking along the street their heads hovering over the screen – not for seconds, not for minutes, but for hours. Do they want to speak to you or make eye contact with you? No way!
Overexposure and excessive exposure to the screen causes children to lose significant time on creative play and the time they spend on manipulating and mastering their physical environment. For young children, this is a dire situation as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that neural pathways that would be beneficial to them in later life will not develop.
For teenagers, excessive screen time can lead to sleep deprivation leaving them with all the physiological and psychological problems that it can bring.
This is the curse.
As school leaders and classroom teachers, can we hide behind this curse and use it as an excuse to do very little or even nothing when it comes to positively influencing learning with digital technology?
Let’s hope not!
As responsible educators, we must be aware and wary of the curse and treat it with respect. But we have an even more important job to do than that.
We must embrace the blessing of digital technology – and there is much to bless.
Even though research on the impact of technology on learning is in its infancy, we are beginning to see a body of work emerge which points to many blessings.
For example, both research-based and anecdotal evidence points to students learning more in less time when they use digital technology well; students like their classes more and develop more positive attitudes when their classes include digital technology; students in digital technology-rich environments experience positive effects on achievement in major subject areas; and students who use simulation and higher order thinking software show gains in their learning.
Who can remember trying to grasp some complex concept at school using pen and paper only? For example geometry and physics: we would have killed for the software available today to teach the complex concepts involved. We would have passed!
With such obvious benefits, it is our professional responsibility to seek the professional development we need to keep up with the advances in technology that will improve the way we teach and our students learn. We should also appreciate the facility our children have with digital technology and steer them in a positive direction as they try to master it.
There is no option for any teacher to deny a child this.
After these arguments, would you knowingly send a child of yours into a school/classroom where the prevailing attitude of the principal/teacher was that digital technology did not add much value to learning, with the outcome being that it was not used or not used sufficiently to improve the learning of your child?
If you knew that this was the prevailing attitude, would you want your child to stay or leave that environment?
Please don’t be insulted if you are “with it” as far as teaching with digital technology goes. We know heaps of you are.
We do however challenge those who have more to do.