Technology in the Classroom

Over the past dozen years, educational instruction in Fairfax County (and across the country) has become increasingly digitized as FCPS and other school districts have rushed to purchase online textbooks, incorporate cell phones, and now dole out laptops to every student. Yet the most important question of: “Is this what’s academically, physically, socially, and emotionally best for our students?” has been either ignored or glossed over. 

 

As for academic results from going digital, they’re actually abysmal, with academic performance slipping in most of the districts that have made the costly investment. Indeed, all across the country — in Baltimore, Boston, Fort Wayne (IN), and Austin (TX) — parents are demanding proof technology works as an educational tool and insisting on limits. They’re demanding their schools offer low or screen-free classrooms, picketing board meetings, and demanding more information about what data is being collected on their students via the technology. 

 

Today, we even have research that suggests too much screen time can actually: 1) impair learning, and 2) delay motor, communication, and problem-solving skills in children. One study even concluded that as little as 2 hours or screen time per day could significantly lower test scores.

 

In a recent 2018 book titled Screen Schooled: Two Veteran Teachers Expose How Technology Overuse is Making Our Kids Dumber , teachers Joe Clement and Matt Miles share their firsthand experience and warn parents that technology overuse and misuse has — and continues to — severely damage our kids. Specifically, Clement and Miles show how screen saturation both at home and school has created a wide range of cognitive and social deficits in our young people. They also expose that in our schools, powerless teachers have been forced to accept — then incorporate — cell phones and technology despite their myriad distractions.

 

Plus, psychologists are now learning just how dangerous smartphones and screens can be for young children and teenage brains! Over the past decade, numerous studies have exposed how young, developing brains are actually pitted against the power of brightly colored notifications, relentless sounds, pocket vibrations, and addicting apps.

 

Another byproduct has been an increase in teen loneliness and disorders such as depression and anxiety. New research found that eighth-graders who frequently used social media increased their risk of depression by 27%, and that the risk was much lower for those who were involved in sports or their community. In addition, teens who spent at least three hours on devices were significantly more likely to show suicidal tendencies. Today, suicide among teens is at a two-decade high — even surpassing the rate of homicide in that age group. 

 

Also telling is the fact that the Silicon Valley tech titans (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Evan Spiegel, Sundar Pichai, Tim Cook, Satya Nadella, etc.) who created these gadgets and distracting programs, all have “serious concerns” about technology’s impact on children’s social and psychological development. Further, these techies seldom let their own kids (or nephew in Cook’s instance) use or play with the products they’ve created, and many are raising their kids completely screen-free!  Even the schools attended by most of their children are screen-free. Hmmm….

 

In Kansas, hundreds of parents are now claiming that the Mark Zuckerburg-funded education platform Summit Learning has caused anxiety, headaches, stress, and other physical and emotional ailments in their children. As a result, dozens of parents have pulled their kids from schools that use the platforms. 

 

As for privacy concerns, the New York Board of Regents is considering a change to the state’s existing privacy laws and regulations that control how schools must handle students’ personal records — including personally identifiable information (PII).  Unfortunately, the change would enable the state to release students’ private information to third parties without parents’ knowledge or consent, after which these groups can then easily sell or share such data with one another. 

 

We’re also learning that lower-income teens spend an average of eight hours and seven minutes per day using screens for entertainment, while higher-income peers spend five hours and 42 minutes, according to a non-profit media watchdog. Additionally, two studies that look at race have found that white children are exposed to screens significantly less than Black and Hispanic children.  Parents are now also realizing there’s a growing technological divide between public and private schools, even in the same communities, with public and lower-income schools relying on technology to teach at significantly higher rates.

 

Ultimately, our classrooms are now full of kids who are over-stimulated, distracted, and unfocused. Worse, our school boards and administrators continue to blindly operate under the influence of questionable (junk) science that has been sponsored (purchased) by corporate technology purveyors — all while parents and taxpayers are left footing the hefty bill.

It’s high time for parents and educators to wake up to these realities.  We must ask who is really profiting ($$) from the over-abundance of technology now forced into our classrooms. I’m guessing it’s not our kids!

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