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Archives - July 2017

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Archives - July 2017

Technology and the Brain - Part 6

July 31, 2017
By Brian Fitzgerald

Technology and Education: Technology at School

With all of this research and information about the adverse physiological effects of electronic screens, I would like to turn my attention to how we seek to use technology at Grace Christian School. I think it’s important for parents to be aware of our approach and the rationale behind it.

In an effort to take seriously the health and well-being of our students, we approach using technology in the classroom as something that must be done cautiously, with a specific purpose and goal in mind, and with an awareness of our students’ overall screen-time exposure. The content may be excellent, but the medium itself may not be healthy for students. Therefore, we resist the temptation and lure of technology’s ease and efficiency, and we choose rather to teach with the idea in mind that most learning requires hard work, time, and personal interactions – things which technology often allows us to bypass altogether.

We also want to be mindful of the kinds of assignments we give our students. Again, a primary question to ask is “How much screen-time am I imposing upon my students?” Even though we want our students proficient in constructing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, we still need to be mindful of the screen-time we are imposing on them. Practically, many assignments do not require computer-use, even when computer-use ensures a neater final product. For instance, the steps prior to the first draft of major papers can be handwritten. Some writing assignments – shorter essays or other assignments less significant than major essays or research papers – can be required to be in handwritten form rather than typed. Some presentations can require the use of physical visual aids rather than relying solely (or at all) on slides on a screen. When screen-time threatens the health of our students, we make the necessary adjustments in the classroom to ensure that we are not contributing unnecessarily to such concerns.

We are not advocating a screen-free, computer-free education or environment. Our campuses are equipped with computer labs, and we offer our students computer classes and electives. We believe that our students need to be proficient in basic technology skills, and withholding technology from them will not help them learn to use it wisely. Moderation is key. We advocate a limited, intentional, and selective approach to screen-time in the classroom and for assignments. Limited in that the screen-time itself is minimal. Intentional in that screen-related technology is used only after careful consideration of alternatives, and such technology is not used as a default teaching method. And selective in that such technology is only used when the teacher judges that it is the best method or tool for a particular lesson or assignment. This approach ensures minimal physiological harm related to electronic screens and screen-time, and it channels our teaching methods to provide a more holistic and human education for our students.

At GCS, we teach and require good handwriting and cursive, and we do not allow students to take notes on devices in the classroom. Most research indicates that students retain information best when note-taking is done by hand on paper rather than typed on a screen. Computer note-takers inevitably tend toward typing verbatim notes, which does not allow for the student to filter and synthesize the information. Taking notes by hand requires paraphrasing, condensing, and filtering the information, which embeds it in the student’s mind far more effectively than rote typing. Handwriting notes also always greater creativity for students to express concepts and ideas in ways that they will best understand and remember.

We also use hard copy books rather than e-readers. For those who have read these blogs consistently, it should come as no surprise that we do not want to impose unnecessary screen-time on students. Much of the research on reading print books versus e-readers concludes that handling real books has a positive effect on the reading experience and ability to recall information from the reading. (If you find research suggesting the two mediums are equal or that e-readers are superior, check to see if the research was conducted by the technology or distance learning industry.) Because of the tangible turning of pages and feeling the weight of the book shift as the reader progresses, reading print books allows the reader to follow and better reproduce the timeline of the information or story. The bottom line: interacting with real things in the real world has real positive effects on people living in reality.

Next week, we will conclude this series with a consideration of healthy home habits related to technology use.

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email Brian Fitzgerald at grace@gcswarriors.org.

 

Technology and the Brain - Part 5

July 16, 2017
By Brian Fitzgerald
Technology and Education: Effects of Screen-Time


With all of the adverse physiological effects of electronic screen-time, how much screen-time is too much screen-time? Dunckley observes:

… the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen-time to one to two hours daily. However, these guidelines don’t distinguish between passive and interactive screen-time, and they apply to an ideal, ‘symptom free’ child, one who is well-rested, performing up to his or her academic potential, physically and creatively active, and enjoying healthy relationships with peers. Otherwise, be much more conservative, since this guideline is way too high for a dysregulated child.

The disturbing thing about that statement is the fact that the recommendation of one to two hours of daily screen-time does not apply to the majority of children. How many children are “symptom free” by those standards? One to two hours of screen-time seems to be too much for the average child.

In a technology-soaked age, how are families and schools supposed to navigate the complex issues surrounding the use of technology? Keep in mind that this series of blogs has only considered some of the physiological effects of electronic screen-time. We have not touched all of those issues, nor have we considered the psychological, emotional, and social effects of technology. But as you can see from our limited consideration, we must be careful and intentional in our use of technology, and we have our work cut out for us when it comes to training and modeling good technology habits for our children.

Over the next two weeks, I will offer some insights into ways that we approach technology use here at GCS, and then I would like to offer some practical advice for healthy technology use in the home.

If you would like to respond to this blog, please email Brian Fitzgerald at grace@gcswarriors.org.  

 

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