Friday, December 25, 2015

Give the Gift of Tech + Stop Feeling Guilty

It's Christmas Day and children everywhere are excitedly opening gifts. Many of those gifts may be the latest gadget, gizmo, or gift card. Some parents might feel guilty about the exposure to "screens" and it's no wonder. Today, as I was trying to have a Merry Christmas myself, I was interrupted by my friend Lisa Cooley who sends me a curmudgeonly article from Diane Ravitch’s blog: It’s about Paula Poundstone, the comedian, who has this Luddite advice for parents: break your children’s addiction to electronic devices.  
Ravitch asks, Is she right or wrong? She says, "Shouldn't children spend time making things, not just consuming what someone else has made? Shouldn’t they have time to use their own imagination, not just imbibe the products of someone else’s imagination?"
Well of course! What Ravitch and Poundstone are missing, and don’t appreciate, is that kids are not just consuming. They ARE MAKING things online. In fact they are creating more than ever before. Not only that, they have access to more books, knowledge, experts, and creations tools than ever before.  
Ironically, Ravitch and Poundstone are using the very devices they are blasting to get their message across and have conversation with others...other real people.  

So, before you get too worried about your tween or teen and the screen, here's another take on the misguided animosity against screens presented by Poundstone. With a few tweaks to the original, courtesy of moi, it is easy to see we're scapegoating and misunderstanding the power, knowledge, and connections screens can provide. Screens are just a tool controlled by a human. The real issue is not that children are using screens, but how children are being required to spend their days regardless of whether or not they're using devices.

==Start of Pro-Tech Rant==
Diagnosis of ADHD in our children has taken a steep rise since the proliferation of schools requiring students to sit all day.
Yet, even when presented with that information, parents often won't hear of protecting their kids from the harmful effects of sitting. Instead they’ll give them pills to help them stay put. "We love playing!" kids say. Yes, they do, and kids would love heroin if we gave it to them. I'm told that after the initial vomiting stage it can be a hoot!
We didn't know this when we first began reducing and eliminating recess, lunch periods, and free time. But, now, we do know. Still, adults aren't doing anything about it. Why? Because they’ve outsourced raising their kids to someone else. They’ve become complacent and complacency hampers judgment.
You see it. Everywhere you look students are sitting at their desks. We're terrified of letting them be free. There is no time to drift or wonder.
In school students must power down. While they may have screens, those are usually on lockdown. Not much more than digital textbooks. Students are disconnected and often blocked from technology that would allow them to make powerful real world connections. The technology they would need to succeed in any real-world job.
Instead they are preparing for a skill valued by no employer. Memorize, regurgitate, respond to prompts without creativity. Families are bombared with ads from companies that can help your children do better in school and better on tests.  
The publishing industry has profited from the "Every child must have a textbook in the classroom" push, but education hasn't. Research shows that the brain retains information better if students can interact with it in a way that is not possible with static paper. Research also shows that the best way to promote literacy is having an authentic audience and reason to write which technology and social media provide, yet for the most part they are blocked in school. 

We must stop valuing the outdated method of taking notes for tests when notes can be provided digitally and answers can be found in a matter of seconds. We must give children access to tools to create (whether writing, coding, video, or whatever they choose) for an authentic audience with their global learning network.  
We keep students in seats all day, disconnected from the world, yet, art, music, sports, play, healthy meals and green space -- things we know help the developing brain -- are on the chopping block of school districts' budgets annually.
Even knowing this, at the suggestion that we get students away from textbooks and testing, people gasp, "But they'll need to know how to pass tests for the world of the future!"
Our children will need fully-functioning brains for the world of the future. They need global connections and access to authentic audiences, and creation tools. Let's replace paper consumption with digital creation and put that first.
==Rant Over==

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