Sunday, November 21, 2010
Should teachers use technology to reach students or restrict it to better impart "traditional" learning skills?
That's the interesting question raised by this article in today's New York Times called "Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction" about the tension high school teachers feel between the desire to reach students on their own turf versus restricting the use of classroom technology in order to better help students learn traditional skills like effective reading and writing. And although the story deals with high school students, the same issue exists in the law school classroom regarding the teacher's desire to incorporate technology that engages students while still trying to maintain a distraction free environment so that students can learn the kind of deep thinking that's characteristic of legal analysis.
Here's an excerpt:
It does not mean [the high school principal] sees technology as a panacea. 'I’ll always take one great teacher in a cave over a dozen Smart Boards,' he says, referring to the high-tech teaching displays used in many schools.
Teachers at Woodside [High School] commonly blame technology for students’ struggles to concentrate, but they are divided over whether embracing computers is the right solution.
'It’s a catastrophe,' said Alan Eaton, a charismatic Latin teacher. He says that technology has led to a 'balkanization of their focus and duration of stamina,' and that schools make the problem worse when they adopt the technology.
'When rock ’n’ roll came about, we didn’t start using it in classrooms like we’re doing with technology,' he says. He personally feels the sting, since his advanced classes have one-third as many students as they had a decade ago.
Vishal [a senior who is the subject of the story] remains a Latin student, one whom Mr. Eaton describes as particularly bright. But the teacher wonders if technology might be the reason Vishal seems to lose interest in academics the minute he leaves class.
Mr. Diesel [a film teacher], by contrast, does not think technology is behind the problems of Vishal and his schoolmates — in fact, he thinks it is the key to connecting with them, and an essential tool. 'It’s in their DNA to look at screens,' he asserts. And he offers another analogy to explain his approach: 'Frankenstein is in the room and I don’t want him to tear me apart. If I’m not using technology, I lose them completely.'