How can we purposefully create environments where children learn to make decisions about these tools and use them (or NOT!) for the good of themselves and others?
Studies of conversation both in the laboratory and in natural settings show that when two people are talking, the mere presence of a phone on a table between them or in the periphery of their vision changes both what they talk about and the degree of connection they feel. People keep the conversation on topics where they won’t mind being interrupted. They don’t feel as invested in each other. Even a silent phone disconnects us.
In schools and at home, how do we recommit ourselves to the priceless value of authentic human connection?
We’ve gotten used to being connected all the time, but we have found ways around conversation — at least from conversation that is open-ended and spontaneous, in which we play with ideas and allow ourselves to be fully present and vulnerable. But it is in this type of conversation — where we learn to make eye contact, to become aware of another person’s posture and tone, to comfort one another and respectfully challenge one another — that empathy and intimacy flourish. In these conversations, we learn who we are.
More than anything, our children and students need to know who they are and who those around them are. Without self-knowledge and awareness of others no meaningful or lasting difference can be made in the world.
Since the proliferation of screens (big and small) began to sky rocket, health and science professionals have been trying to get a handle on the impacts of screen time on the health, wellness, and development of children and adults. As screens take hold in classrooms as well, being abreast of the most recent research and up-to-date findings (positive and negative) regarding screen time is necessary. Best parenting and teaching practices are constantly evolving – and though rules or recommended restrictions may shift in small and large ways…the take away should really be quality over quantity and everything in moderation.
“Zero to Three, a nonprofit research organization focused on infants, toddlers and their families, published Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight. The report summarized existing research and encouraged child-adult interactions. Screen time is most effective when adults and children use electronic devices together, it said…There is no definitive set of rules — the research and our perception is evolving.”
“The issue seems to be that children with screens (large or small) present in the bedroom go to bed later than those without. The children all woke up at the same time to go to school. The study doesn’t go as far as figuring out what specifically about the screens kept the the children from sleeping. NPR explains: This study wasn’t designed in a way that could figure out what was causing the sleep loss and tiredness — whether the kids were actually using the devices thus exposing themselves to light and stimulating content, say, or whether getting calls or alerts during the night interrupted sleep”
It was not THAT long ago that smart phones were a rare luxury found in the hands of high-powered entrepreneurs and financiers. Today they fall out of the half-zipped backpacks of young children and are left forgetfully behind by over-scheduled adults. We touch them within minutes of waking up, and turn screens off just moments before falling asleep. We fear missing out. We fear a great catastrophe if we aren’t instantly accessible….but didn’t nearly everyone who can read this post grow up in an era where if you left your house, you weren’t reachable until you returned?
It begs the question: what are we teaching our children and students about meaningful living and learning?
Two articles related to this question (links and excerpts shared below) recently caught my attention. As per usual, the most balanced perspectives on digital tools and media at all levels of education and in daily living are those that advocate for wisdom, moderation, and well-informed intentionality in the lives of both children and adults. If research shows that meaningful living and learning happen in the context of relationships, resilience, and reflection…how are we cultivating THOSE 3 Rs? It behooves us all to think carefully about what we are modeling for children about balance, presence, and self-care.
“Transparency improves learning. If you tell students that what they’re doing is critical thinking, they retain it more than if you don’t name it. We know a lot about what works. For example, using a highlighter when you read doesn’t increase student learning; what does is reading the chapter, then taking out an index card and putting it in your own words. We talk about the three Rs: relationships, resilience and reflection. If you increase those things, students will learn more, and teaching content becomes less important. We don’t have to teach you the periodic table because there’s a guy online who teaches it. But those guys online don’t know the names of their students. And there’s hard evidence that students learn more when they feel you know and care about them.” – Dr. José Antonio Bowen
“It is hard to be okay with letting things drop: being late, or messy or uncomfortable or letting little ones feel impatient. It is hard to feel that you cannot help them all or do it all. It is a hard truth borne from a slowly evolving realization that doing less can, in fact, mean more…As we increasingly read on screens, our reading habits have adapted to skim text rather than really absorb the meaning…Do you know this feeling? It is the difference between sitting at the table versus being at it, or putting them to bed versus tucking them in. It is the difference between eating your food versus tasting it or raising your kids versus enjoying them.” – Jennifer Meer
This TED talk by Sherry Turkle is worth the listen and the thought-time. As we model for our students and children how to engage meaningfully in community, navigate emotions and relationships with friends and loved ones, and balance increasing demands on our time and attention as a result of this digital age: reflecting on Sherry Turkle’s words will not be a waste.
“We seem determined to give human qualities to objects and content to treat each other as things…and the end result is we expect more from technology and less from each other…When Thoreau considered “where I live and what I live for,” he tied together location and values. Where we live doesn’t just change how we live; it informs who we become. Most recently, technology promises us lives on the screen. What values, Thoreau would ask, follow from this new location? Immersed in simulation, where do we live, and what do we live for?” – Sherry Turkle
A parent of one of my students shared this video with me. Regardless of your familiarity with programming or your comfort with technology it is hard to deny that the shape of our society and culture is changing as a result of computers. How should schools change in response? What should they preserve apart from technological tools that is meaningful and valuable? These are important questions without clear answers. Though this video champions the importance of learning to code and program, it does highlight some important points:
Computers are prolific in our society and learning how to make them do things (programming & coding) is increasingly relevant.
Great and influential programmers (indeed great and influential ANYBODYs) are born from a simple spark (i.e. making a word appear on the screen as a result of code you wrote). Providing students with the opportunity to experience that spark (whether in programming or other skills) can set them on a path to a lifetime of engagement and fulfillment in a profession that truly captures their imagination.
Great inventions are borne of the freedom to imagine and the motivation and exposure to tools that allows progress between idea and product
There is an increasingly small gap between the words “creative” and “computer engineering/programming”. The former used to be reserved for more “right brain” qualities of fine or performing arts and the latter reserved for the more “left brain” qualities of maths and sciences. In the 21st century creativity is more and more associated with innovative mindset towards varied resources and tools and what a learner can DO with what is around them to effect meaningful change on their community.
This two-minute video uses photographs and music to give one artist’s rendition of the history of the world. The juxtaposition of images, instruments, rhythm, and volume pull the viewer onto the stage of humanity. The short video makes you feel (you shiver, your breath catches, you ache and marvel) the profound impact of our history and the roads we have traveled and have yet to venture down. Art is, as Herman Melville once said, “the objectification of feeling.” In a digital world of rapidly advancing technology and the proliferation of devices – we are running the risk of losing our emotional depth and intelligence. Art in all its forms (painting, drawing, photographing, sculpting, performing, writing, composing, etc.) is the evidence of the spectrum of deep and broad human feeling. Here is an example of innovation, creativity, artistic and visionary thinking that some of our schools run the risk of abandoning. Our children need the skills to create using the new tools our world has designed, they need to develop and explore their emotional intellect, they need to express feeling…in any or many or all of the artistic forms available to or invent-able by them.
Bloom’s Taxonomy is a system for identifying increasingly sophisticated and higher order forms of thinking and questioning. Recently the apex of the pyramid has been changed from “Evaluating” to “Creating”
If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original…creativity now is as important as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.