Wednesday, March 26, 2014

10 ways the research behind banning #mlearning for children is flawed


You may have come across Cris Rowan's popular HuffPost piece explaining 10 reasons handheld devices should be banned for children under 12. You may also haveread the rebuttal from a librarian mom who explains why she will continue to give her children handheld devices. While the pro-device author explains the benefits of handhelds, what she doesn't uncover is that the research cited by the original author doesn't support her claims.

In fact, the research cited in the Rowan piece is so unsupportive of her claims, it seems possible that the real motive behind the article was to test the reader's gullibility. If readers had dug a little deeper, they'd find the truth.

The research focuses mainly on passive television consumption and video games that are either simple or for mature audiences. Much of it also is focused, not on pre-teens, but rather on teens and adults. The research shows a dearth of findings around the type of technology use in which the overwhelming majority of children engage.

Video games themselves come in many flavors, varieties and levels of complexity, a fact the article ignores. For example, today's video games often provide complex interactive stories through which players navigate. While some are simple video games, others are Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) like Minecraft and World of Warcraft. Innovative educators have created complete educational curricula around them. Interactive programs like Footsteps 2 Brillianceare teaching young people to read using research-based interactive techniques that a book is not built to provide. Young people are playing music in iPad bands. See what that looks like here. They are fascinated with geography using apps with wild popularity like Stacked States. They are learning about physics and geometry via apps like Angry Birds. They are writing more than ever as well as reading on their handheld devices. Perhaps most important is that technology allows us to virtually reach out and touch someone, providing access to experts and others around the world who share our interests. This is happening via social networking like Facebook and Twitter, video conferencing platforms like Skype and Google Hangout, or via resources like Scratch which teach basic computer programing.
Tech savvy parents and educators know that all these things are good for young people. This is why the Rowan article left some of us scratching our heads. Rather than acknowledge any of the amazing things children are doing with their devices, the article instead focused on couch potato zombies. Most of us are alarmed at the sight of a child passively staring at a screen or playing simple or needlessly violent video games; often we adults experience the addictive nature of games ourselves and understand that it is not what is best for children. However this article focused almost entirely on these activities. Parents and educators should not be easily fooled. Handheld devices provide the ability to do much more.
I am fortunate to have had the chance to observe and teach the best use of these devices. I'm calling on parents, teachers and government agencies to use common sense and empower students with the freedom to learn using handheld devices.
Visit the research that shows why the call-to-action to ban devices is flawed here.  
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