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Browsing our ClassicalU forums content I came across this thread: 

 

Specifically the short video referenced in the response post. The presenter of the video has specific things to say about children and the effects of technology. I know from observations of myself, I grow in anxiety and distractibility when I use my phone and computer frequently. These days I find I have to purpose to NOT use them. What am I showing my children? This is what it is to be an adult? My own college classes and this forum are online, but I want them to do all their course work through books and paper, and all their socializing in person. I wish I could have the Great Books courses locally and that ClassicalU was a support group downtown, but  they aren't. So I compromise and use the computer/my phone. 

To wind down in the evening I play Words with Friends. I justify this as superior to the Xbox because it is a spelling and strategy game. But the truth is it's still electronic entertainment. It's still solitary. And of course I go on facebook multiple times a day as a "break". Yet I am slightly insulted when I am out with people and they answer or pull out their phone. How do my children feel? Who could be calling or texting during school hours that's more important than what we are doing together? 

So are there necessary or beneficial uses for electronic devices in education - especially for the young? Is there an age that is too young and other skills and concrete materials ought to be employed first? Is the damage that is coming out through studies and observations, statistics and data enough to warrant not using devices before middle school? That age seems shocking to suggest. But just twenty-five years ago there was hardly anything to use before that time.

My 14yo daughter has friends she keeps in contact with from our church camp through social hang-outs. I am glad she is maintaining relationships from camp. But she doesn't have her own computer or phone. She has to use ours and ask to do so. But, she develops a negative attitude when she is denied or we want to do something as a family. So, I see this rejection of the ones who are present for virtual "community" happening. I am sure that is how my kids feel when I have my phone out or am on it while "we" are supposed to be watching a movie. I wonder if this is what happens with books compared with movies, and curriculum compared with online opportunities. 

Can you imagine if God had chosen to send a program instead of Jesus? 

 

 

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I'm reading this post over a cup of coffee at Panera Bread, and just a few minutes ago I overheard a conversation involving a young couple eating breakfast with their boy, who was playing games on a tablet, and a lady sitting next to them: "We bought him this when he was five. He's seven now, and it's his most prized possession!" I cringed a little bit, thinking about how Steve Jobs apparently did not allow his own children to use the very iPads that he designed.

There's so much to say about technology...I'm just going to throw out a few semi-related thoughts on how I have tried to work through these issues:

  1. There's debate over what exactly "classical" education is. However one defines it, one of its chief (and best) characteristics is that there is, at its heart, an instinct to resist modern educational fads, most of which revolve around overblown promises about technology.
     
  2. Right now we're in the midst of a crisis over contemporary technology. Many generations have gone through similar crises. Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business and Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology before the age of the internet, but they are as relevant today as ever. For a fun take on how people dealt with the technological developments of the past, see William Powers's book Hamlet's Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. I'm in the midst of studying the Industrial Revolution with my history students...now there is a period in which it took a long time for people to work through how to use technology in way that produced human flourishing rather than suffering.
     
  3. One of the best thinkers out there right now, in my opinion, is Cal Newport. He has a great blog you can subscribe to, and a book coming out next month called Digital Minimalism (his book Deep Work is also great). He has so many good ideas I'm not even going to try to summarize any of them here.
     
  4. Some evenings I spend more time than I should on my phone browsing through Facebook or news sites when I feel like I should be reading books. I realized recently that this is partly because I have a pretty noisy house (four kids, aged 2-11); when I'm not directly interacting with them, trying to read a book that takes real concentration is pretty difficult, and I get irritated at being interrupted. If I'm doing something not so important (being on my phone), I don't mind all the interruptions. So my being on my phone may be, psychologically, a logical response to the situation. I don't know if this is good or bad, but it sparks the thought that when we're thinking about wanting our kids to spend time in activities that require concentration, how do we best create a home environment in which that is possible? (Having the TV on a lot isn't going to help.)
     
  5. As a teacher, I find myself thinking quite a bit about my use of screens in class. If I'm giving a lecture, should I have a slideshow with lots of visuals, since that will help keep the students' attention? Or is this merely reinforcing their dependence upon screens? There must be a good balance here.
     
  6. From my own informal observations, having taught high school for over a decade, my students today seem to be simultaneously 1) more dependent upon their phones, and 2) more aware of their phones' dangers, and less likely to be wrapped up in the novelty of having one. Ten years ago, a student sneaking his phone out was probably having fun playing Angry Birds; today, he is probably keeping up with an ongoing group chat with his friends that feels (but actually isn't) very important. This year I have two students who chose to write their senior theses on the dangers of technology for young people. I think that's a good sign. (On the other hand, I hear Literature teachers questioning whether students are able to read as much or as deeply as they could before smartphones.)
     
  7. When I was a kid, from an early age, my dad frequently took me to the shooting range and taught me how to handle and safely use firearms. A gun is a powerful piece of technology, but growing up being trained to use one safely is, I think, better than simply avoiding them altogether if someone is going to be able to use them responsibly as an adult. (Europeans might make the same argument about consuming alcohol...but that's another story.) Maybe this is a good way to think about technology with our kids. My own kids have the privilege of spending time on screens on a regular basis, but my always insisting on specific limits to how much they can watch shows or play video games, they're being trained in the habit of having to be aware of how much they are doing--a skill they wouldn't develop if we banned screens altogether.
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4 hours ago, Patrick Halbrook said:

Some evenings I spend more time than I should on my phone browsing through Facebook or news sites when I feel like I should be reading books. I realized recently that this is partly because I have a pretty noisy house (four kids, aged 2-11); when I'm not directly interacting with them, trying to read a book that takes real concentration is pretty difficult, and I get irritated at being interrupted. If I'm doing something not so important (being on my phone), I don't mind all the interruptions. So my being on my phone may be, psychologically, a logical response to the situation. I don't know if this is good or bad, but it sparks the thought that when we're thinking about wanting our kids to spend time in activities that require concentration, how do we best create a home environment in which that is possible? (Having the TV on a lot isn't going to help.)

I have also used my phone when I thought I ought to be reading in the midst of my own noisy house (five kids, aged 2-11). I do think that it is an easier thing to pick up and concentrate on than a book, but I have also found that become less attentive to what is happening with the children than if I had a book. That could be my own problem, but it makes sense to me that a more stimulating medium like a phone absorbs attention more than a less stimulating (and by stimulating here, I mean the physiological effects) medium like a book. I have found that I can read and still get much out of the reading (provided it isn't a complicated argument) despite distractions. Plus, I'm happier with myself for reading rather than using the phone.

4 hours ago, Patrick Halbrook said:

From my own informal observations, having taught high school for over a decade, my students today seem to be simultaneously 1) more dependent upon their phones, and 2) more aware of their phones' dangers, and less likely to be wrapped up in the novelty of having one. Ten years ago, a student sneaking his phone out was probably having fun playing Angry Birds; today, he is probably keeping up with an ongoing group chat with his friends that feels (but actually isn't) very important. This year I have two students who chose to write their senior theses on the dangers of technology for young people. I think that's a good sign. (On the other hand, I hear Literature teachers questioning whether students are able to read as much or as deeply as they could before smartphones.)

This may be true, but I also think that children today, because they have been saturated in phone-mediated experience, are less capable of escaping because of how dependent our culture has become on their use. I find that many of my students "study" while texting one another with questions (or other things). So, instead of going to study together at one's house or at a coffee shop, they mediate their experience through the very inefficient method of texting. I cannot imagine productive work done under such conditions (although I have known a student who "studied" while watching Netflix--imagine how well that could go!).

 

4 hours ago, Patrick Halbrook said:

When I was a kid, from an early age, my dad frequently took me to the shooting range and taught me how to handle and safely use firearms. A gun is a powerful piece of technology, but growing up being trained to use one safely is, I think, better than simply avoiding them altogether if someone is going to be able to use them responsibly as an adult. (Europeans might make the same argument about consuming alcohol...but that's another story.) Maybe this is a good way to think about technology with our kids. My own kids have the privilege of spending time on screens on a regular basis, but my always insisting on specific limits to how much they can watch shows or play video games, they're being trained in the habit of having to be aware of how much they are doing--a skill they wouldn't develop if we banned screens altogether.

I don't see how we can avoid teaching children to use technology, since it is much more difficult to navigate today's world without knowledge of it. I think the key is building into them a sense of independence by teaching them low-tech or non-tech alternatives--I know how to use technology, but in many cases I don't because I prefer to use a different method that I also know how to use. For example, I will still make my students compose essays or poetry in long hand rather than allow them a computer word processing program. They get familiar with the difference, and I get the opportunity to try to show them the benefits of both (better thinking and editing with long hand, but better speed and uniformity of appearance with word processor).

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On 1/12/2019 at 12:57 PM, JTB_5 said:

I will still make my students compose essays or poetry in long hand rather than allow them a computer word processing program. They get familiar with the difference, and I get the opportunity to try to show them the benefits of both (better thinking and editing with long hand, but better speed and uniformity of appearance with word processor).

I like this a lot. We don't have to train children how to use technology in the same way we did in the 80's and 90's when it was rare. Now we have to train how "not" to use it. "Laying hands" on your work is sacramental. There is something "more" and not just laboriousness, to w r i t i n g your thoughts and expressing yourself poetically through pen and paper. Common place journaling could be another opportunity. But yes, when someone else needs to read it, a uniformed, word-processor paper is a better artifact. 

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50 minutes ago, Cheryl Floyd said:

I like this a lot. We don't have to train children how to use technology in the same way we did in the 80's and 90's when it was rare. Now we have to train how "not" to use it. "Laying hands" on your work is sacramental. There is something "more" and not just laboriousness, to w r i t i n g your thoughts and expressing yourself poetically through pen and paper. Common place journaling could be another opportunity. But yes, when someone else needs to read it, a uniformed, word-processor paper is a better artifact. 

I don't use commonplace books, but at least two of our other teachers do or have done before. I even make it a point to grade their handwriting specifically on assignments, and I have them pay attention to the details of size, slant, ball letter formation, placement on the line, etc. Like Latin grammar does for the eye and mind, cursive handwriting trains the eye and hand to pay attention to multiple aspects at once until it becomes second nature.

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On 1/12/2019 at 1:57 PM, JTB_5 said:

This may be true, but I also think that children today, because they have been saturated in phone-mediated experience, are less capable of escaping because of how dependent our culture has become on their use. I find that many of my students "study" while texting one another with questions (or other things). So, instead of going to study together at one's house or at a coffee shop, they mediate their experience through the very inefficient method of texting. I cannot imagine productive work done under such conditions (although I have known a student who "studied" while watching Netflix--imagine how well that could go!).

I'll confess that this description resembles my own lousy study habits 20 years ago, thanks to AOL Instant Messenger and the ordinary TV set we had in our house. In that sense, the problem isn't new. (Nor are all coffee shop study sessions always very productive, for that matter.) At the same time, as you say, their level of dependency and saturation is much more than anyone has ever experienced in history,  and in the 90's I at least learned to eventually go up to my room where the lack of computer and TV forced me to disconnect and stop "multitasking." I also don't recall experiencing much FOMO, back in the days before group chats or up-to-the-millisecond news feeds; and it's the anxiety felt by teens when they are not on their phones that is one of the things that worries me the most.

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6 hours ago, Patrick Halbrook said:

I'll confess that this description resembles my own lousy study habits 20 years ago, thanks to AOL Instant Messenger and the ordinary TV set we had in our house. In that sense, the problem isn't new. (Nor are all coffee shop study sessions always very productive, for that matter.) At the same time, as you say, their level of dependency and saturation is much more than anyone has ever experienced in history,  and in the 90's I at least learned to eventually go up to my room where the lack of computer and TV forced me to disconnect and stop "multitasking." I also don't recall experiencing much FOMO, back in the days before group chats or up-to-the-millisecond news feeds; and it's the anxiety felt by teens when they are not on their phones that is one of the things that worries me the most.

That's a good point. We have probably always had distractions of a variety of kinds--I know I had my own share (like yours, actually). I do think that "saturation" is a bigger issue today than twenty years ago.

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On 2/3/2019 at 2:26 PM, Patrick Halbrook said:

Here's some further related insights on technology I encountered last week, from Alan Jacobs of Baylor University:

"Gen Z" and Social Media

In the first paragraph universalizing a whole generation is criticized, then the author goes on to mostly site his own limited experiences as his counter-argument. 🤨 

Especially for young children, electronic interfacing on a regular basis over a long time has statistically proven bad for their judgement, social skills, attention span and concentration. It is addictive for a variety of reasons. 

As far as adults, we could set a better example, and many of those issues pertain to us as well. 

Anxiety issues have also been linked to too much electronics/online exposure. 

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On 2/4/2019 at 9:56 PM, Cheryl Floyd said:

In the first paragraph universalizing a whole generation is criticized, then the author goes on to mostly site his own limited experiences as his counter-argument. 🤨 

Especially for young children, electronic interfacing on a regular basis over a long time has statistically proven bad for their judgement, social skills, attention span and concentration. It is addictive for a variety of reasons. 

As far as adults, we could set a better example, and many of those issues pertain to us as well. 

Anxiety issues have also been linked to too much electronics/online exposure. 

I took his article as a commentary, not a refutation. Some of the points he mostly agrees with, and some he mostly disagrees with. He concedes that he "can’t assume that the young people I know are representative," so I don't think he's trying to make new generalizations so much as qualifications, citing noteworthy exceptions he has seen.

For our purposes as educators, I thought this was a good observation of his:

Quote

Mims also quotes in this context a Pew report claiming that the “Post-Millennial” generation is probably going to be the “best-educated ever,” but by “best-educated” Pew means simply having the most years of education. And that is, ahem, not the same thing. But that’s a subject for another day.

 

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I also just started reading this book:

Image result for screen schooled book review

Much of it is common sense, backed up by research, but it's still somewhat terrifying hearing about just how bad things now are in public schools, with kids spending all day distracted from learning because due to overuse/misuse of what's on their screens. Here's a review: https://connected.socialstudies.org/blogs/margaret-crocco/2017/12/19/screen-schooled

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It's like we have forgotten how to train, teach, and expect our children to be entertained or bored without a screen (Or ourselves). I didn't have a screen in the 70's and 80's, and everywhere my mom took me took longer than today because no one had technology. Of course, sometimes things take longer these days because of technology not working as it ought. But why do parents, why do we, use technology to distract our children instead of letting them: look out the car window, sit in the waiting room or bring a book? Talk to them or with them? Train them to sit and be patient while they have to wait? 

Why are we so enamored? Is it a kind or degree of gluttony or lust? 

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12 hours ago, Cheryl Floyd said:

It's like we have forgotten how to train, teach, and expect our children to be entertained or bored without a screen (Or ourselves). I didn't have a screen in the 70's and 80's, and everywhere my mom took me took longer than today because no one had technology. Of course, sometimes things take longer these days because of technology not working as it ought. But why do parents, why do we, use technology to distract our children instead of letting them: look out the car window, sit in the waiting room or bring a book? Talk to them or with them? Train them to sit and be patient while they have to wait? 

Why are we so enamored? Is it a kind or degree of gluttony or lust? 

I know that laziness is a part of it--it requires much less effort to plop kids down in front of a screen than to keep their attention with your own creativity and purpose. Also, perhaps, bad faith in children's own ability to find creative activities for themselves in the down times of life. I also think a lack of training for parents contributes--many parents today were children of television and video games in their own childhood, so it takes a lot of undoing or making up for lack of experience.

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7 hours ago, JTB_5 said:

... perhaps, bad faith in children's own ability to find creative activities for themselves in the down times of life.

This is a good point. I just went through that today at the dentists office. I handed the 13yo an extra copy of Beowulf, but the 11yo, I didn't think would be happy with a pad of paper and a pen or two because he is never given much chance to just draw. So he sat watching a zoo show on the provided TV. :( BLEHK. I did think to myself: I would have wanted to draw stuff on the scrap paper, but he probably won't - didn't even offer!???

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14 hours ago, Cheryl Floyd said:

This is a good point. I just went through that today at the dentists office. I handed the 13yo an extra copy of Beowulf, but the 11yo, I didn't think would be happy with a pad of paper and a pen or two because he is never given much chance to just draw. So he sat watching a zoo show on the provided TV. :( BLEHK. I did think to myself: I would have wanted to draw stuff on the scrap paper, but he probably won't - didn't even offer!???

We are surrounded by easy distractions. It takes no effort to give over to them. Poverty has its own temptations, but they seem far less numerous than those of luxury. God help us!

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