Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Reaction: Classroom Access to Technology: Reason to Pause?

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This week, I will be posting reactions to my classmates' entries from last week -here is my example-)

By Marcie Barnes

Today I am reacting to my classmate Amanda Toler's post called "Classroom Access to Technology: Reason to Pause?" from her blog, Global Criss Cross. I am interested in this topic, of course, because I too have a son (who will be entering the public school system in the next few years). Her concern about students' access to technology is certainly a valid one, considering the considerable expense of new technology and the rapid rate at which technology moves.

I was especially interested in the existence of "detractors of technology use in the U.S. classroom", especially in light of my last post which warns against spending too much time in front of a computer. These detractors "continue to question if the educational benefits of technology are worth the price". My opinion is this: I think that the money should be spent in the upper grade levels (high school) where students are preparing for future success in college and/or the working world. There is little doubt that technology will be part of the endeavors of the majority of the students. I think giving younger children exposure to technology is also paramount, but it need not be the latest-greatest computer sitting on their desks. I was happy to see a lone keyboard in my son's two-year old room, because I think that will help him familiarize himself with the layout of the keys. I know he will have access to a "real" computer where he can perform tasks in preschool (and at home), and I would be happy to see the same when he gets to kindergarten, as long as the tasks remain age-appropriate. Perhaps in middle school he should begin using the internet as a research tool, but again, no bells and whistles needed.

I ran across this page from the NEA (National Education Association) which includes their positions on Technology and Education. I would like to highlight the last one: "Students should also be taught the appropriate and safe use of technology". Although this statement is vague, hopefully that would be to include the health issues that can arise, the dangers of anonymity online, and even productivity strategies in a technology-driven world. Check out this post from author Timothy Ferriss about how marijuana smokers were more productive than those dealing with normal office distraction in a 2005 study! As important as technology is, I want to make sure our kids get the message that it's not healthy to be dependent upon it.

Amanda gives some excellent solutions that could help get more technology in the classrooms and in the most appropriate areas. I wanted to mention a charity I am very familiar with, donorschoose.org. This is wonderful charity that allows educators to post "projects" when they are in need of funding for a particular need. Then, donors can go in and choose the projects they want to fund. In this way, parents, other relatives, and even strangers can get involved in helping fund in areas where the government funding is lacking. It's like giving a little dose of private school into the public ones. Pretty cool!

2 comments:

Amanda Toler said...

I know he will have access to a "real" computer where he can perform tasks in preschool (and at home), and I would be happy to see the same when he gets to kindergarten, as long as the tasks remain age-appropriate.

In preschool, my then 4-year old would gather around one of two computers with his friends to watch others play games and wait his turn. I was amused by the scene. Some children only watched, some wanted to drive the mouse all the time, some called out answers at the top of their lungs. They were learning, though. I was also glad that it was the only electronic toy in the classroom and was only on for a short time each day.

At home, my son has a computer that he shares with his 3-year old brother. They have their favorite sites bookmarked - mostly Disney, pbskids.org, and the likes. They play games and draw pictures. They also play the Cars sample soundtrack (20 second snippets of each song) and dance. The 5-year old remembers web addresses from commercials and newspapers and types them in. We haven't installed a filter yet - he's more interested in NASCAR than the darker side of the net. All of that being said, they have not touched the home computer in well over a month.

So, in the 5-year old's first computer class in kindergarten, he comes home super excited. They spent the entire class period learning to turn on the computer. Here was a child with access to his own computer, who can type in web addresses and surf a bit, excited about learning how to turn on the computer.

That's a long way to say that our experience so far is that the one hour a week technology lesson in kindergarten is age-appropriate. I'm not sure they are past the lesson on "logging in" yet. ;)

Atomic Momma said...

Excellent post. My husband once asked an old time Engineer WWII veteran what he thought of today's kids and how smart the young engineers were coming out of college.

The man's answer was an interesting one: he said that the kids were no doubt "whip smart" and incredibly talented but with technology of computers and calculators they weren't having to do calculations longhand and with paper and pencil. Because of this they lacked an "intrinsic knowledge" of how numbers should "look" when you are working as an engineer.

So this is my concern as our 3 year old learns to navigate a computer. He's learning stuff but is he learning how to think? That's my biggest concern.