Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Passionate Disagreement is Good for the Mind

This article was running rampant around my Tumblr dash and showed up on some other social media this weekend and it definitely brought me pause. While I have some passionate feelings about it I do appreciate how sometimes the things that get us most fired up might also be the ones that get us thinking more deeply. I love spending time with like-minded individuals who keep me inspired and "get" my philosophy, but having your ideas challenged and being required to provide a solid rationale for your argument can be quite powerful as well. Healthy debate in a constructive space is important for both our own practice and for the students in our classrooms, and it gets the blood circulating pretty well, too!

So since I spent time writing, and then re-writing (thanks so much for that, Tumblr iPad app *eye roll*), my thoughts I've shared them here as well. As always please share any thoughts you have by commenting or posting your own 2 cents somewhere. I'd love to hear your take on it.

A couple people have posted some thoughtful reflection about how technology impacts their kids and families, as well as envisioning their own childhood with handheld technology added to the mix. I really appreciate their perspectives and wish more adults took some time to think about how technology might be affecting the children they interact with. Picturing our own childhood and how it might have been different if technology were so prevalent is a powerful idea, and something I’m going to have to ponder and think about for myself and for the teachers and parents I work with.

That being said, I have a huge problem with the way this was written and the blanket statements being used here. Some of the ideas could be used as an argument for better education for adults and children around technology use, but using this “evidence” and “research” as a call to action in banning technology for children under 12 is misguided at best. I would urge readers to click through to the original post and read some of the comments being left, as many of them bring up important points.

The majority of the author’s arguments are focused on how the technology is being used and monitored, yet those same arguments are being used as a claim that the technology itself is causing harm. Does sitting children in front of technology as passive consumers for hours each day have implications we need to consider? Absolutely. Assuming that every time someone picks up a device they are using it in this way, though, is just not accurate. Technology is being used by students for meaningful creation, problem-solving, collaboration and teamwork, and some of the most authentic learning experiences you could imagine. Sure, not all students and teachers are engaging with technology in this way every time they use it, but that is why we need to support these teachers through open communication and sharing about meaningful technology integration.

Having technology available to students provides them the time and space to learn how to use it in a safe and meaningful way so they don’t become the same disengaged citizens this article takes such issue with. Technology is not going away and keeping it out of the hands of our kids is doing them a disservice. I have been blown away by how much my students have grown this year because they’ve been empowered with technology. They paint, dance, play outside, build, create, think critically, problem solve, and make decisions about how and when to use technology to engage more deeply in and share back all of this learning with each other and a wider audience outside the walls of our classroom. I’ve seen my kids become more confident and engaged in their learning, helping each other on a daily basis and coming together as a supportive community in ways I never could have imagined. I’ve watched the surprised looks on their faces at the beginning of the year when principals, teachers, and staff from around the district came to our classroom and looked them in the eye, asking them to share thoughts about their learning and valuing their ideas about technology in the classroom. Those looks of surprise quickly faded as my kids realized, and came to expect, that adults should be constantly asking them what they think and using that feedback to make decisions and shape the system that is supposedly serving them. Technology has empowered them beyond belief, and they have multiple authentic audiences for their work and ideas.



I’ve found myself constantly wishing I had this technology for my previous students and imagining how it would have been a game changer for my kids, and for me in trying to provide what they really needed. I see the faces of my kiddos in previous years and think of how much they missed out on and how much I struggled, and failed, to differentiate for so many needs. My kids this year have access to the same content as the rest of the class but in their native language at the click of a button and can have materials and books read to them out loud as they follow along. They move through standards at their own pace without feeling rushed ahead or held back and they are able to take charge of their learning with timely feedback and data to inform goal setting. When they have a question or get excited about something they can dig in on the topic immediately without having to ask for permission to learn, taking their understandings far beyond what any 1 teacher could provide them. Most importantly each one of them is developing a strong knowledge of self, a drive to contribute and give back to a larger community, and is engaged and taking ownership of their learning while acquiring skills and understandings that will serve them in life regardless of what path they choose.



The transformation I’ve seen in just 6 months never ceases to amaze me and I get truly excited to think of where these kids are headed if they continue on this path that is aided by technology as an authentic tool for learning. Please do think about the implications of technology, know when and how to use it meaningfully, make informed decisions, and most of all discuss and raise awareness of these things with kids and families, but don’t jump to conclusions and propose we take technology away from them. I've seen how amazing a technology-enabled classroom is in providing an authentic learning experience. These classrooms are shifting the landscape of education for the better so that we can ensure our kids are excited and ready to have a positive impact in the world.

ETA: Check out what +Erin Jackle had to say in her blog, Transforming With Tech