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A few thoughts and ideas

Knee-jerk reactions to technology in schools

knee-jerk reactionI was recently contributing to an email conversation around the use of technology in schools. I made these remarks.

Regarding ASD and technology. What I have read indicates that children on the spectrum have a tendency toward addictive behaviour due to their comfort at doing a familiar task over and over. I think this, when twinned with the fact that apps are designed to be engaging, causes the problem. So the question is, do we train them somehow to moderate their behaviour and therefore cope more effectively in the world, or do we keep them away from technology hoping it doesn’t become a problem. Probably the answer is somewhere in between these, depending on the extent of the specific child’s abilities/disabilities due to their place on the spectrum. Careful and sensible management of students’ use of technologies such as tablets, laptops and phones is the way to go.

I don’t know enough about ASD to be able to comment in depth about the way we prepare them for a technology saturated world, but I generally push back against some articles I’ve seen that talk in terms of doom and gloom about technology use. These articles inevitably have an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to withdrawing the use of technology from education. This is not only unrealistic and ill informed but also fails to make the educational institution any more authentic or relevant to its students. Just when schools generally are asking questions about their relevance and the authenticity and usefulness of the skills they engender in their students.

My approach can be summarised by looking at three issues that I have seen over the last couple of years. These are the use of pens and pencils in preference to laptop and tablet use, screen time concerns and ergonomic issue, and the hazards of WiFi in classrooms.

here is a table of these issues with a typical knee-jerk reaction for each and a possible better reaction based on an informed approach.

ConcernKnee jerk reactionInformed reaction
Students learn better when they use pens and pencil in place of keyboards. Fine motor processes are linked to cognitive development.Don’t use laptops, get the students back to using pencils and pens and writing on paper.There are times when pencil and paper is exactly the right method to use. There is a big difference to using pens and pencils compared with keyboards and the research supports the cognitive benefits for pens and pencils.
The modern approach should be to include students use of styli (digital pens) and the interactive screens on newer convertible laptops and tables. This incorporates the fine-motor benefits of using ‘pens’ and brushes etc. while also harnessing the editing, creation, multimedia, storage, transmission, publishing, sharing and social aspects that technology affords for students’ products.
Screen time at school, effects on students’ eyesight, posture etc.Reduce the screen time at schoolThere may be some developmental issues with the physical use of laptops, computers and tablets for children. This may include issues with vision and ergonomics.
Using computers and tablets at school should be a high value activity that takes preference over more casual use of these devices. Ideally we should encourage parents to reduce screen time at home on entertainment and idle use of technology. Teachers should teach and model good ergonomic use of screen including posture, exercise, breaks and eye breaks. School should assist students with information for parents and even assist with setting up home technology plans.
Wifi linked to being a potential cause of cancer and/or a risk to pregnant women No Wifi in schools, don’t allow pregnant women to work in wifi areas RF radiation (all radio waves) are categorised by the WHO as carcinogenic at the same level as pickled vegetables, Styrofoam cups and coffee.
The laws of physics do not allow mobile phone radiation to cause cancer. If it did, researchers say we would already see a massive increase in the incidence of brain cancer, this is not the case.

Wifi is very low energy radiation and is recognised as having no discernible safety issues. In fact if the laws of physics meant that WiFi caused cancer then WiFi wouldn’t work.

Mobile phone radiation is more powerful than WiFi but, despite mobile phone handsets being held to the users head, the user of mobile phone radiation has been found not to pose a cancer risk.

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