The Tech Savvy Generation
Should kids avoid technology—or embrace it? It’s a classic intellectual dual, and one that is especially relevant now that school districts across the country are putting a lot of money towards incorporating technology in the classroom. Recently I read the Time Magazine article, “The Digital Parent Trap,” in which author Elina Dockterman focuses on two parenting opinions when it comes to the digital age. There is the one camp who believes that today’s young people need to be weaned on technology. Then there is the other camp who believes that kids should not have an iPhone till they turn 18. Which one do you belong to?
As Dockterman points out, “By all measures, this generation of kids (ages 3-18) is the tech savviest in history: 27% of them use tablets, 43% use smartphones; and 52% use laptops.” Dockterman further states that “80% of U.S School Districts say they are on the cusp of incorporating Web enabled tablets into everyday curriculum.” Los Angeles County alone will spend $30 million integrating technology in the classroom this year—on just iPads! This would mean 640,000 students will have iPads as part of their classroom instruction by 2014.
But not everyone is enthusiastic about this trend. Dockterman says, “according to the latest findings from the research firm of Grumwald Associates, barely half of the U.S. parents agree that mobile technology should play a prominent role in the schools.” She relates a story of one parent who shelled out $24,000 to send their kids to a month long “digital detox” program. Even parenting expert Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech, has less than kind words about the value of educational games, even though there is research to defend cognitive benefits of integrating technology in the classroom early-on. A study conducted by MIT found that students can remember only 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear and 50% of what they see demonstrated. But when they’re actually doing something themselves—in the virtual worlds on iPads and laptops – that retention rate skyrockets to 90%.
Regardless of where we lean, we have to contend with reality and deal with the facts. Anything done to the extreme only leads to myopia, so to ban all use of mobile technology or to question the use of technology in our schools is not facing reality. But such technology can be used to harm and even hurt our children, you say! This may true, but banning the use of iPads in school does not protect our children as much as showing both parents and schools how to teach students to use them responsibly.
As we increase the use of technology, so too should we balance it with courses in acceptable and responsible use. Beyond signing an agreement, students should receive formalized classroom instruction presented by individuals who can speak on proper use—as well as the legal and social consequences of misuse. We should also keep in mind the reality that as humans we are relational beings. In spite of the social networking phenomenon, which certainly has increased connectivity and communication, we still need that personal connection that comes from the daily interactions with society’s protocols and demeanor, whether in the board room or on the jogging trail.
Keeping the Balance
In essence, it is all about keeping the balance. We live in a technological world and integrating technology in the classroom is necessary for student achievement. We are preparing our students to take their place in society, and no matter what profession they may claim as theirs, they need, no they must, be prepared to meet those demands. There is not a single profession where technology has not made its marked influence and impact. Our students will be competing in a global economy, an economy that relies heavily on technology for its productivity. The fact is, what we see today as so innovative and groundbreaking will be pushed in the background as new creative and innovative ideas are developed.
Parents and educators need to understand and accept technology in the same ways we have done with other educational innovations. We educators jaded by the evolution of age have seen the “groundbreaking” overhead projectors give way to the amazing wonders of Smart Boards; the “remarkable” memory typewriters turn into computers and then into smart phones and iPads that can fit into your hands. But with each iteration of the “newest” technology, we always reminded ourselves that they were tools. All the advances made in technology as applied to education are merely tools that strengthen and enhance the learning process. Its effectiveness still relies on the human factor. As we, the human factor, continue in our mission to educate our students to be competitors in the global economy, we need to embrace smart technology and learn how to use it ourselves. Only then will we know when to use it and how best to use it efficiently.
Learn more about how Catapult Learning can help with integrating technology in the classroom. Leverage the iPad to Transform Personalized Learning with iCatapult.