Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Back to the Stone Age...Really?
As all good educators do, I subscribe to a newsletter to stay informed of trends, studies, and general education news. eSchool News hits my e-mail in-box a few times a week. When I get the chance to read through an article, I find that spending some time reflecting or discussing with my colleagues helps me to form an opinion on a particular topic. Case in point, this weeks edition made me really stop and think about my role as a tech coach and the kids I interact with each day.
The idea of back to the stone age comes from Pulitzer Prize nominee and New York Times bestseller Nicholas Carr's, book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brain . It was the focus of an eSchool News article this week. In a nutshell, Carr explains that throughout history, man has had to make shifts as to how we process information. Think about early maps and how man had to shift his thinking of the world around him. Today, we have an unfathomable amount of information available to us and our mind has begun to shift. Carr quotes in the article that according to recent studies, "For an average adult, time devoted to looking at screens per day averaged 8.5 hours, whereas time devoted to reading from pages per day averaged 20 minutes." Our mind has begun to shift on absorbing and organizing information, and not taking the time to process and evaluate.
Although I do not find this hard to believe, I do find my self wanting to jump from e-mail to twitter to facebook to EdModo to e-mail,,,,and the cycle continues. As a colleague says, 'It's not multi-tasking. it's uni-tasking in micro-seconds'.
Carr raises concern that with all the technology to engage students now available, combined with info overload, students are moving away from the ability to develop intuitive thinking and problem solving. The brain is constantly processing information and not taking the time to fully process. Amen to that! Maybe that explains when I get up from my desk to go do something, I can't remember what it was I got up to do!
In the past two weeks, I've witnessed many students when being introduced to some new technology,(EdModo, Animoto) have little if any patience in waiting for things to load, or actually take the extra 30 seconds to process what they are actually reading on the screen. NO effort at all to problem solve, just a simple raise your hand, and claim 'I don't know what to do', or 'Mine doesn't work'.
As an avid follower of this blog, as I know so many of you are, my battle cry now and for the last who knows how many years, was 'Figure It Out For Yourself' I wanted kids to stop and think for a moment as to how they could solve a problem on their own. Is it quite possible that students today are unable to FIOFY due to the technology that has bombarded them? Are we teaching kids not to be able to think for themselves? Come to think of it, why do we require kids to memorize things when all they have to do is 'Google' what information they need from the palm of their hand.
A tech coach lamenting the use of technology? Really? Well kind of. As we meet with teachers and begin to discuss and explore new ways to engage students and have them collaborate, the discussion always turns to, 'It's not about the Technology'. What do you want the kids to do? Goal? Objective? Once clearly defined, then we can match the technology. The district spends gobs of money for technology. (not all wisely, in my opinion), New Ipads, minis, Smartboards, etc...won't make them smarter, or score higher on the PSSA. It's the teachers who lead, direct, and focus their students on ways to problem solve, think, and be creative.
Now I don't think that we will regress to Stone Age thinking, although that was probably a much simpler time. Carr makes some good points. We do need to use technology more as a tool, rather than a crutch. We need to focus more on getting kids to think about the problem more and not just how quickly my laptop loads or how to change my profile picture.
I sure hope that "Figure It Out For Yourself' is not etched in stone.
eSchool News Article - Technology might be returning us to Stone-Age thinking