iPads and YouTube: Are digital tools in classrooms a student asset or distraction?
Tablets and cell phones in the classroom could be changing students' attention spans, but long-term studies have yet to prove the two are linked.
For a new report, the Pew Internet Project surveyed and held focus groups with more than 2,000 middle and high school teachers in the Advanced Placement (AP) and National Writing Project (NWP) communities and found that 77 percent feel “the Internet and digital search tools have had a ‘mostly positive’ impact on their students’ research habits, but 87 percent say these technologies are creating an ‘easily distracted generation with short attention spans’.”Skip to next paragraph
Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.
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Almost two-thirds of the teachers (64 percent) said today’s digital technologies ‘do more to distract students than to help them academically’.”
Many of the teachers surveyed are probably amazing educators – like the ones Matt Richtel of the New York Times interviewed for his coverage of the study: Hope Molina-Porter, who has taught for 14 years and cares enough about her students to adjust to changing conditions, and 4th-grade teacher Dave Mendell, who said “it was tougher to engage students, but that once they were engaged, they were just as able to solve problems and be creative as they had been in the past.”
But do stop and think about this data. Thankfully, Mr. Richtel did. High up in the article, he wrote that researchers pointed out their findings represent subjective views and that “scholars who study the role of media in society say no long-term studies have been done that adequately show how and if student attention span has changed because of the use of digital technology.”
But there’s so much more to think about, and I hope that, out of respect for our children, parents and educators will give this even more thought. Here are a few more things I think we need to think about, whether or not you agree with me….
So students are changing. Is this a bad thing? We’re all changing, and a lot of things around us are changing too, not just technology.
As for technology, it’s apparently rewiring our brain. The thing is, it always has – since the beginning of time, at least since Socrates, who “started what may have been the first technology scare,” author Jonah Lehrer wrote in the New York Times, referring to the invention of the book.
And our brains are constantly being rewired by all kinds of things, not just technology. “Being online does change your brain, but so does making a cup of tea,” wrote University of Sheffield researcher Tom Stafford at BBC.com.