Saturday, October 29, 2011

technology: the raging debate

Technology has always been a bit of a thorny problem for an educator. At Summers-Knoll we share the point of view expressed by Jane Healey in her book, "Failure to Connect". (You can find an excerpt here for an example of her reasoning.) Her statement, "The best multimedia, interactive environment is still the real world," resonates with us and informs our approach, especially with the younger children.

Does that mean there is no place for technology? Clearly, students are excited by the extensive opportunities offered by computers and interactive software. There's a huge and understandable desire on the part of their teachers to harness that excitement. There's also a huge pressure on parents to feed their children with technological entertainment. ("But Mom! It promotes hand-eye coordination!") And just as the world of technology is enormous and complex, so are the arguments that surround it. Essential tool or poisonous creator of ADHD? Thought-promoter or thought-destroyer? Social promoter or the end of human connection? There's a lot of attraction and a lot of anxiety to navigate.

It has to be all in the choices and the applications: educational technology comes in many forms. Some are useful and some are emphatically not. Some can be used creatively and with original thinking; some cannot. It doesn't help that this is a powerful, multi-billion dollar industry with a lot at stake, and the research is conflicting and flawed by self-interest. Here's an insightful New York Times article that describes some of the vagaries of educational software research.

At Summers-Knoll we'll continue to be wary. We'll avoid technology with the younger children. We'll choose software with the older students that demands independent thought, analysis and creativity. And we'll continue to watch and question.

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