Although touch-screen phones have only been in existence for about the past three years, and iPads only hit the market within the last two years, these digital tools have completely changed the way people look at the world – including how we learn.
According to new research, 40 percent of all 2 to 4-year-olds have used touch screen technology. About 10 percent of babies less than a year have used it as well. Many schools have introduced iPads in the classroom. At the Catherine Cook School in Chicago, they teach kids to write letters, identify shapes, and interact with each other using the tablet technology.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting screen time for those in the 2 to 4-year-old bracket, the organization says that it can be enriching if there is interaction with an adult. Though proponents of technology in the classroom believe that access to these tools at younger ages may spur growth and development in children’s abilities to use and create technology, any real research on the topic is still years away – and by then, today’s technology will be obsolete.
However, there is a growing opposing school of thought, and it comes from a very interesting place – the heart of technology in the U.S. The Waldorf method, nearly a century old, uses a teaching philosophy that focuses on physical activity and learning through hands-on, creative tasks. Proponents believe that computers inhibit creative thinking, human interaction, and attention spans. Of the 160 Waldorf schools in the country, 40 of them are in California, many of those in tech-heavy Silicon Valley, where 75 percent of the students have parents with careers in high-tech fields (students include offspring of executives from Google, Apple, Yahoo, and more). Waldorf schools have no computers, frown upon home use of screen technology, and only begin to introduce the use of gadgets in the eighth grade. Instead of iPads, Waldorf schools employ blackboards, pencils, even encyclopedias.
Is learning through activity more effective than learning with technology? It’s hard to compare – as Waldorf schools are private schools, they do not administer standardized tests. Furthermore, they admit that their youngest students may not perform well on such measures, as they do not cover a standardized curriculum. However, advocates will point to the schools’ effectiveness by showing that 94 percent of graduates from Waldorf high schools from 1994 to 2004 attended college, with 91 percent stating that they are active in lifelong education.
What is your take on technology in the classroom? Is it a distraction or is it the new way of learning?