Technology as a Tool for Learning

I use technology all the time to help me learn and understand things.  Just a few weeks ago, I was attempting to analyze data with complex statistical tests using a statistical package that I wasn’t very familiar with.  Completely frustrated, I did three things:  (1) I posted a status update on Facebook that read “Does anyone know how to use STATA?”.  While I waited for a reply, (2) I googled the specific questions I had “logistic regressions STATA”.  When that only provided part of the answer (3) I searched our University’s Library website for statistics program workshops.  Never once did I open a traditional textbook.

As adults, technology provides us with efficient ways to search for and learn information. So why is there such resistance when people mention using technology as a learning tool for children?  In April, an article in the Christian Science Monitor reported about a school in Maine that has decided to give each of their Kindergarteners and ipad2.  The title of the article was “iPad2 in kindergarten classrooms: A good idea?”  The article includes criticisms about the iPad potentially taking away from teacher instruction.

What I find so fascinating about this is the hypocrisy of the entire issue.  First, adults are constantly modeling the use of technology as a teaching tool.  How many times has your child asked you something to which you have responded, “That’s a good question.  We should google that when we get home” (Or right this minute for those of you who have a smart phone).  You can learn from technology so why can’t your children?  Second,  our current education system isn’t working.  This generation will be LESS literate than the one before it (Waiting for Superman), 44% of American 4th graders cannot read fluently (National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Pinnell et al., 1995), and low income and less educated parents are less likely to read to their young children daily (US Department of Education).  And these are just statistics related to literacy- our children are also struggling in Science and Math as well (See the National Center for Education Statistics Early Childhood Longitudinal Study for more details on 5th grade Education skills).

I am a HUGE advocate for research.  I want studies to be conducted that demonstrate the ways in which technology can be used in the classroom and by teachers to help educate  young children!  However, there are many apps and computer games that have not yet been tested but that are being created with the help of educational consultants and child development researchers to help educate children in a way that is fun which can help to potentially create a generation of children that LOVE learning!  And in response to the criticisms that iPads in schools will take away from teacher instruction–  As of 2007-2008, the average public elementary school classroom had 20.3 students; maybe providing other ways for children to learn in which they can receive scaffolding, help, and immediate corrections and reactions to the work they are doing is a good thing- even if those reactions are being provided by a computer (some of the time).

No one is recommending that teachers or parents disappear and that we let Steve Jobs or Apple raise our children, but the question is why can’t they help? Because at the moment it looks like we can use all the help we can get!

Resources for Parents:

Common Sense Media is beginning to review and rate apps to help parents and teachers decide which apps to use and what types of educational skills children may learn from each.

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