Crimes of Technology – Teachers Caught Under the Spell

Before teachers jump on the “Technology Train” by increasing computer use in school-based settings, (Coast Reporter February 26, 2010 “Technology in the classroom”) they might be wise to consider the question “How much is too much?” 75% of Canadian children have TV’s in their bedrooms (Kaiser Foundation 2004), and use an average 8 hours per day of a combination of technologies such as TV, video games, movies, internet, and cell phones (Active Healthy Kids Canada 2009). The results? 21st century children are sicker than they have ever been. One in three children enter the school system developmentally delayed due to a sedentary lifestyle (P. Kershaw 2009). One in three children are obese, again due to a sedentary lifestyle (M. Tremblay 2007). One in six children have been diagnosed with a mental illness (C. Waddell 2007), and one in six are on some form of psychotropic medication, due to underlying poor attachment formation with their primary parents (J. Zito 2002, A. Becker-Weidman 2001). Child aggression from media violence exposure has now been categorized a Public Health Risk (L. Huesmann 2007), causing significant behavior management problems in both home and school settings. Half of Canadian grade eight students do not have job-entry literacy (Human Development Index 2007), and one in three students will not complete high school (P. Kershaw 2009). The incremental rise in physical, mental, behavioral, social and academic disorders as a result of technology overuse have caught the education and health care systems unawares, and wholly unprepared for the devastation yet to come. While there is minimal research showing a computer can actually “teach” a child anything, and surmounting research showing that ANY TIME spent in front of a computer is detrimental to child development, why is SD 46 is blindly moving full steam ahead with initiatives to expose children to even more technology in the classroom-based setting? Really – where is the evidence that shows that giving K and grade 1 children computers (a new reading initiative) will enhance literacy?

The reason literacy continues to plummet and learning disabilities rise is somewhat complex and multi-factorial, but is definitely something that WILL NOT “be fixed” with a computer! Literacy rates are falling largely due to the fact that teachers have “virtually” quit teaching printing, falling under the “virtual illusion” that technology will pick up where their teaching left off. If a child can’t print, they are illiterate and will perform poorly in every subject. The reason being is that the majority of an elementary child’s graded output is produced by printing (not by using a computer). Struggling, slow printers become very frustrated and angry because they constantly have to “think” about how to make their letters and numbers, problematic for spelling, math and sentence composition, but impacting on behavior as well! How many adults would go to work and perform a task they were not shown properly, but expected to do, day after day? By grade three, these children have often been diagnosed, labeled, possibly medicated, and handed a computer. If computers could possibly solve children’s printing problems, then why as a private practice pediatric occupational therapist, am I asked to service these children? 90% of the children I service can’t print because “yes” – they overuse technology (resulting in low tone and poor coordination – especially to the muscles of the eyes), but also because teachers have quit teaching it! Studies show teachers now spend an average 10 minutes per day in printing instruction in the primary grades (S. Graham 2008). Gone are the chalk boards that used to ensure good posture and motor coordination. If a child cannot “see” the teacher make letters and numbers, how are they supposed to learn how to do it? Teachers have no standardized way to teach printing, and it is no longer a curriculum based subject, so teachers are on their own when it comes to methodology. Compared to 60 minutes per day in the 70′s, insufficient instruction on behalf of the teacher is a large part of why children can’t print. Turning to computers for children who have learning difficulties is not only short sighted, but is negating the powerful connection a teacher can form with a child, which is really the most significant determinant of that child’s ability to learn.

Teachers have fallen under the spell of “virtual technology”, that technology can actually teach children, and worse, that computers can actually replace the magic of the unique teacher-student human connection. With Disney now offering refunds for Baby Einstein DVD’s because they CAUSE delays in development, and surmounting evidence showing the detrimental effects of technology on children, why is SD 46 is pushing more technology on our children in classroom-based settings?

Research references can be found on Zone’in Fact Sheet located at www.zonein.ca.

Cris Rowan, OT (Reg), BScOT, BScBi, SIPT, Approved Provider for ACTBC and AOTA
CEO Zone’in Programs Inc. and Sunshine Coast Occupational Therapy Inc.
6840 Seaview Rd. Sechelt BC V0N3A4
604-885-0986 O, 604-740-2264 C, 604-885-0389 F
websites: www.zonein.ca, www.suncoastot.com