Is tech overpowering the classroom?

I’m quoted in the @OttawaCitizen re: Is tech overpowering the classroom?. And of course it is.

I was asked a series of questions:

  1. What is the value of getting young kids using technology, such as tablets, at a young age?
  2. Is there any evidence to suggest they might be better off reading, or exercising?
  3. Is there an age that you would consider “too young” to be using tablets and computers?
  4. If kids are going to be using tablets, what sort of activities are good for them to do

Here’s my response that didn’t make it in:

I’m very skeptical of the need for children to be using digital technology at a young age. Children should be engaged in physical, active, multisensory exploration of the world around them, in a manner that is open ended and full of unknowable outcomes. There is no digital technology that can provide children with as rich a learning experience as their own interaction with the world around them. Of course, there are instances where digital technology can provide children with opportunities that they can’t engage in on their own, but these are specific and rather limited. Cell phones and iPads can be used to allow children to document their explorations and creations. Taking a picture of a sand castle or snow angel, or recording a special event is a wonderful way to document children’s experiences in a way that they can explore and reflect on a later date. Sometimes children are so engaged that they do not end up with a clear memory of what was going on. Digital technology can help with that. And even before an experience or an event, digital technology, in the form of videos, can help a child understand an upcoming experience and gain a form of mental preparedness of what is going to happen. Whether this is a doctor’s visit, or going camping, or going to a new school, being mentally prepared for new event can help a child to avoid being overwhelmed, and also be able to make the most of experience. Another very important use of digital technology comes in the form of its ability to help disabled children engage more fully in the world around them; a world that is rarely designed with their needs in mind. Any form of technology, digital or mechanical, this can help extend a disabled child’s ability to move, explore, communicate, or share their experiences helps to ameliorate, even in a small way, the challenges they face in everyday life. And the better these tools are in helping children engage in communicate, the greater the chance that the able-bodied community will see them as valued members of our community. Finally, digital technology is a great way to maintain and nurture family bonds when the child is growing up far away from grandparents and extended family members. It can help in the maintenance of first languages and cultures that could quickly become dim memories if there wasn’t videos and web chats to help maintain the ties. The use of digital technologies by young children should never be about the age of the child. Every child’s developmental path and individual needs and curiosities are different. Parents and teachers must take responsibility in carefully observing each child in order to decide to the best of their ability whether digital technology is increasing a child’s opportunities for exploration and learning about the world around them, or distraction that merely keeps quiet and occupied.

About Jason

Director of the RE/Lab & EDGE Lab and associate professor in the School of Early Childhood Studies.
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