So the debate begins…a little late in coming in my opinion but it’s here and thank goodness for that!
Many schools are aiming to go paperless…that new trend that most local authority offices have been trying to fine tune for almost a decade! It is not possible because it is not practical…can you imagine people like me who worked in Learning and Development going off to a training session with all my notes on the laptop, no handouts, no worksheets for the delegates. I know I wouldn’t be a happy bunny if I went to a training session and got no points of reference…there was, however, the suggestion that handouts be electronically sent to delegates pre and post course…but as an FE teacher I can tell you that it doesn’t really support learning. If the notes are there in front of them they are more likely to add bits to them that help them remember things. The worst case scenario to that would be if the technology failed you altogether! That has happened to me and I calmly referred to the PowerPoint handouts and the worksheets, so the show could go on. That scenario would have been very different if the training had been the all new ‘paperless’ kind.
Some schools are reportedly including items such as iPad on their school items lists for parents to buy as well as the usual uniform items. This is a very exclusive exercise and I am hoping that these schools have something in place for those parents who do not have the financial capacity to provide such expensive items for their children…but can you see my point?
The discussion this morning on a popular morning TV programme which I stumbled upon whilst munching away at my breakfast was about school bags and the new school world. Tom Bennett, a very highly regarded and respected individual who is the Government Advisor for Bad Behaviour in Schools (not sure I like the word ‘bad’) was there to comment on this new development.
He rightly commented that this much technology is distracting and can affect the quality of learning that takes place, as the child may not be paying attention at all times…he gave an interesting statistic of the number of learning days lost due to this type of distraction, around a week’s worth of learning is lost…incredible and completely unacceptable. Here’s the research article which I believe he referred to: https://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/effectsstudents.html
I would have liked for Mr Bennett to have given us more of that kind of robust data to demonstrate how technology can be effectively used in schools and the circumstances where it shouldn’t be used. That kind of information would have been useful to parents and professionals alike…however, in his defence…he couldn’t get much of a word in with the two presenters…time must have been at a premium to allow this very important debate to go on for too much longer.
We can all clearly see that there is a place for technology in the learning arena and the advantages. It’s a great tool for research as it opens up a whole world of information that the schools can utilise to the benefit of its students, all at the click of a button. The biggest investment would be the technology itself, which I would argue is a sound investment if utilised properly and in a balanced way.
This kind of resource requires close supervision, a point which can be backed by the comment made by Tom Bennet; that it can be a distraction due to the many other interesting apps and programmes available on them which would serve to distract the students.
My other biggest argument against the sole use of technology in the classroom is a neurological and psychological one. Firstly, why are we ignoring the gurus of child psychology? I’m talking about the likes of Piaget, Bowlby, Skinner, Bandura, Freud and many more. The ones that those of us who chose to work in the arena of children and teaching had to learn and debate on during our Childhood Studies and teaching qualifications. Here’s a link to an interesting article, my nomination for the missing number 10 on this article is Lev Vygotsky Top 10 Psychologists for those of you who would like to know about Vygotsky’s contribution here’s another link: More on Vygotsky
Secondly, there is a very important neurological reason for children to be encouraged to write their notes. Scientists have discovered that cursive writing (writing in flowing strokes with letters joined together) has an important part to play in cognitive development (see Piaget and Vygotsky Theories around cognitive development). Cursive writing is particularly important in training our brains to learn what is known as functional specialisation: Wikipedia definition; allowing it to work with optimal efficiency. Using cursive writing helps your brain to develop ‘functional specialisation’ in more than one area, that is, more than one compartment in the brain, which is incredible. The brain develops ‘functional specialisation’ in the areas of movement (fine motor control), sensation (holding the pen, the feel of it and the act of writing) and thinking.
The additional benefit to the thinking function is the act of reading and writing, to use cursive writing you need to have what is known as fine motor skills, which in this case refers to the small more refined movements of the hand, wrists and fingers. This takes concentration, which is now known as a form of mindfulness meditation, being deeply engrossed in any activity that takes concentration. The act of cursive writing, making it neat, and then reading back what you have written stimulates more than one area (compartment) of the brain.
Studies where brain imaging has been utilised, show that writing activates areas of the brain that keyboard use does not…and there’s my biggest argument on the balanced use of technology in the learning environment. By learning environment, I mean all learning environments, I am always instructing my students to write their notes rather than type them into the tablet that they have brought along with them…most listen and take my advice, some don’t but that’s the way the cookie crumbles when you’re working with adults as opposed to children.