Sunday, 4 March 2012

Fool’s Gold or Tools of the mind? The technology twist...

Kids are fascinated with all kinds of technology not only because it fulfills their need for 'exploring' but also fulfills their need for 'independent exploring'. This is where we adults lose touch with them, we are unable to share their enthusiasm for this kind of quick learning and hence are unable to talk about, share, discuss/debate  the uses or abuses of technology with them, and end up nagging, lecturing them on the abuses which drives them away deeper into their technological cocoon.

We adults accept and celebrate all technological advances like face book, twitter, blogs, laptops, ipads and iphones in our daily work; we claim it has brought the world closer and in touch. But somehow when it comes to the school or the teacher and child using it, we have our many, many reservations.

Many may say that these are 'adult' technologies and hence not for kids. If parents are really worried about the tech gadgets leading their kids astray, then lets recollect it is parents who first give the child the mobile phone in their hand when they want to 'keep the preschooler busy', or keep the television on while feeding the baby or 'to stay in touch while the parents were working', or to keep track of where the child was. It was the parents who gave video games to the kids may be as guilt or materialistic parenting.

Brain research gives some very important points about why kids and adolescents find technology so 'addictive', two simple facts the 'eye and the hand need each other' ( and not to just boringly copy from the blackboard)  and that is what you will notice has worked for project based schools, learn while doing etc Another simple fact is R.A.D learning (R= reticular activating system, which means the more visual stimuli that the brain gets, the more it can play attention.  A= amygdala's filter, technology tends to keep children stress free and involved and so the amygdala in the brain is not stressed and so no 'flight or fight' reaction needed.  D= dopamine, happy chemicals that mean more focus and attention). If we equip today's teachers with brain research and how to implement it in their classrooms you will have a successful and empowered teacher who knows when to use the blackboard, the smart board, books, field trips, digital photos and Google maps, live streaming  videos and  'teacher presence'. 

Why do we always want to keep the teacher handcuffed to the age old traditional formats of teaching and learning in the class? Why does all the 'teaching' have to be by the teacher? Traditionally it has always been that teachers write on the board-children copy, teachers help kids unravel the textbook, teachers will operate the smart board-kids to sit back and look at it in awe. Now suddenly gadgets like an ipad has put both teacher and child on the same side. The child/student can explore and jump ahead of the teacher and this will really bring a unique transformation to the teacher student relationship, where teachers have to stop teaching and start collaborating, learning and discussing with students. Suddenly the limits of the textbook and blackboard are no more, children can see, visualize, create, explore and learn, after all academic success requires focused attention, listening, persistence and innovation so what's the difference if the teacher achieved it with the blackboard/textbook or the computer/ipad?

Technology is here to stay and it will enter our classrooms and our homes, what we need to understand is that, we should not be those who have blind "faith in technology to solve the problems of education", and nor should we have "blind faith that technology spoils kids". As given in the research report, Reply To Fools Gold, 'there is a middle path, a path that needs schools to train teachers and parents in understanding the healthy use of technology and a path that understands that the teacher can never be replaced and it's time to stop feeling so insecure that any innovation in the classroom will result in the teacher being replaced'.

This middle path as experts say, is about making kids netizens, practice netiquette and technology literacy. Yes, kids idolize the net, and that is why we need to educate them about technology as there are far too many cases of students saying, "It's on the Internet. It must right", 'that should be the goal, to enable children to develop their own 'creative and critical capacities in relating to technology, not to train them to be machine operators or machine slaves'.  Children today are overawed by the workings of sophisticated hardware and software. Basic education and understanding of these technologies will help to counteract the awe and help them realize that any technology gadget still needs the human brain to make sense of it all.    
Teenagers are die hard users of electronic media; they are busy on their computers, cell phones, and ipads.  Experts (in programs like propose 'meeting youth where they are-riding the airwaves-with positive messages that compete with and offer attractive alternatives to the negative, unhealthful, or illegal messages they are exposed to every minute'.
What are we afraid of? Early sexual activity, drugs, violence? Then it's time for parents to speak up, get in touch with research and face the reality that technology is here to stay and so what is required is a change in parenting styles, in educating ourselves and our children. We need to stop trying to keep our children away from it and start educating our children about it. And yes about cyber crime and plagiarism, it happened without technology too and it will happen now, if moral values in society are lacking.   It's time to change, change our 'ways of looking at technology' rather than 'thrashing technology'.

 I would like to quote from research and suggest that Schools adopting technology in their classrooms should understand that-
      i. It should support meaningful, "whole" development and learning for Children. When technology contributes to development, it should be used. When it does not, it should not be used.(ref-Reply To Fools Gold)
     ii. Technology can help children with disabilities.
    iii. Alan Hedge, professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, recommends that children take a break from computer work every 20 minutes and spend no more than about 45 minutes in any hour at a screen.
    iv. There is a need for human connection which should never be replaced.
Remember you still need that human finger and brain to operate technology!