Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Be careful: there’s a baby in that bathwater

Posted by lpearle on 21 October 2011

The other day I realized my iPod had decided that its time had come, so I made plans to go to the nearby Apple Store in Danbury. I also checked the online store to see what the possibilities are and learned that there was nothing that really met my needs: the Nano was only 16gig and the iPod was 160 – I needed “only” 30-40. Sigh. One friend asked why I wasn’t using my iPhone to hold all my music and my response was that I like having different machines for different functions. There’s less to go wrong, and if one part dies/malfunctions, I don’t lose everything (this hearkens back to my decision not to get an all-in-one tv/vcr).

That led me to reflect on some recent trends, particularly this idea that New!Improved!Shiny! technology tools are better than what we have already.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone but I still could use my old cell phone (bought in 2004) and be happy. I’m in no rush to get a 4s or whatever comes next, but I know many that are. Often these are also people who think that going green is a good idea and by going paperless they’re helping the environment – but what about the chemicals and metals that go into the making of each electronic device? The fewer devices we have, and the less frequently we upgrade, the better for the environment.

Those thoughts led me to the question of all the 1:1 laptop (and now 1:1 iPad) programs in schools. Posts like this show the promise of iPads, but then I see stories like this about some of the things we’re losing.

We know that learning to write helps refine fine grapho-motor skills in young children. “Keyboarding” (what I grew up calling “typing”) does not. With the emphasis on schools making AYP and buying into the Common Core standards, arts classes are being cut back, and those only happened once, possibly twice a week. How are we ensuring that young students get the practice they need to master the grapho-motor skills they will need to succeed in fields like design, art or any sort of craft, not to mention tinkering with electronics? And then there’s all the evidence that learning to write assists with spatial skills: judging how to space letters, or how high to make the f or t, or how low to go on the q and j, helps with other things later on. Where are students getting those skills if they’re typing?

We also know that computer screens cycle at a rate we can’t see, and that reading on paper is actually ocularly safer than reading on a screen. Need proof? Ask any optometrist or ophthalmologist: business is booming among younger patients. And what about the position of the desks and chairs that students use? Is our increased reliance on computers in classrooms taking those into account? Are we ensuring that younger students get up and move around enough, so as to avoid repetitive motion injuries?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Luddite. I just think that our rush to use this new technology in the classroom runs the risk of some baby-tossing, and that too few people are reflecting on what the long-term effects will be on your younger students (K-4). By the time they’re in high school, I have fewer concerns except over the sustainability and optics. It’s surprising to me that the schools that are Going Green aren’t tackling these issues (perhaps they are – perhaps they have programs in place that recycle the laptops and other devices by donating to others?).

As conference season progresses, it would be nice to have some of these conversations alongside those that push the New!Shiny!Exciting! technotools and tips.

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One Response to “Be careful: there’s a baby in that bathwater”

  1. ayucht said

    Thank you! I’ve been wondering when someone will address the loss of developmental skills as folks rush to the New/Shiny!

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