Looking at myself honestly, I know I read differently than I did in the past. I find it harder to stay with a book. I read all the time on my iPad and watch very little video. It is not as if I am not reading. In fact, I'd rather read a news story than watch a news story. My twitter feeds me a steady stream ed-tech, tech, education, sports, politics news- all rich and interesting. The vast majority of these reads take less than 5 minutes. When I read a book or longer scholarly article, I have to really work at staying with it.
It doesn't help that I have an addictive personality. For me, too much is never enough. It's why I'm twenty pounds too heavy despite exercising regularly. If some is good, more must be better! Many argue that technology is addictive. Though not addicted to my phone, I am often on my iPad- for hours a day. While I feel we use "addiction" too loosely- as one doesn't going through withdrawal when a cell phone is taken away the way a heroin addict or alcoholic does when their drug of choice is removed- the mental obsession with technology is real.
Some argue, such as Twenge does quite convincingly in this article, that kids are being psychologically damaged by too much time on social media.
In light of the news that tech is addictive and psychologically damaging, what's a school to do? Should we become Luddites and embrace the Waldorf school practice of banning technology? In addition to banning black crayons (really!) , Waldorf Schools ban TVs and computers arguing that distraction of electronic media inhibits engagement between teacher and students. Can we really put the genie back in the bottle?
I'm the first to admit that many ed-tech promises are oversold even while feeling that we really haven't tapped tech's potential in the classroom. To me, banning technology entirely seems as silly as banning the color black for a child's palette of colors.
What can we do? I offer these 5 suggestions.
1) Only use technology when the technology allows the lesson to be transformed (or at least Augmented according to the SAMR model). If only substituting, don't use technology!
2) Teach mindfulness and self-awareness in school and at home. Mindfulness leads to awareness and promotes a sense of peace within oneself. Some suggest the escapism that we can become addicted to is lessened.
4) Incorporate digital literacy instruction throughout the day. Talk about it in language arts and social studies. Teach it in science and health classes.
5) Okay- only half-jokingly- how about giving kids Jitterbug phones- the "old people" phones that are advertized in AARP magazines. They just make phone calls. Perhaps we should get the addictive smart devices away from kids.
If this seems too extreme, have students put phones away and keep phones away at school. Insist that students talk to each other at recess and lunch. At home, parents should have students put their phones on the dining room table and leave them there for most of the night- letting them use the phones for an hour a night. Teach healthy habits.