Worrisome studies about how technology is changing the way students learn

Two new studies that Matt Richtel reports on in the The New York Times find that teachers have noticed a change in children’s attention span as well as a decline in the depth and analytical skills of even their best students, which they blame on growing use of video, phones and television screens. The studies note that these are the subjective views of teachers …but this parent — subjective or not — agrees.

“There is a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, according to two surveys of teachers being released on Thursday.

The researchers note that their findings represent the subjective views of teachers and should not be seen as definitive proof that widespread use of computers, phones and video games affects students’ capability to focus.

Even so, the researchers who performed the studies, as well as scholars who study technology’s impact on behavior and the brain, say the studies are significant because of the vantage points of teachers, who spend hours a day observing students….

One was conducted by the Pew Internet Project, a division of the Pew Research Center that focuses on technology-related research. The other comes from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that advises parents on media use by children. It was conducted by Vicky Rideout, a researcher who has previously shown that media use among children and teenagers ages 8 to 18 has grown so fast that they on average spend twice as much time with screens each year as they spend in school.

Teachers who were not involved in the surveys echoed their findings in interviews, saying they felt they had to work harder to capture and hold students’ attention.

The authors of the study were reluctant to characterize the findings as good or bad.

        “What we’re labeling as ‘distraction,’ some see as a failure of adults to see how these kids process information,” Ms. Purcell said. “They’re not saying distraction is good but that the label of ‘distraction’ is a judgment of this generation.”

Just because it is the judgment of a previous generation doesn’t make it wrong.

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One response to “Worrisome studies about how technology is changing the way students learn

  1. In addition to the general exposure to technology, virtual learning is unchartered territory. We are losing site of the fact that there is researched based programs, instruction and curriculum. Rather than putting more resources behind those programs, we up the ante on the accountability end and put more resources into “blended learning” and other technology based instruction. We have no idea what the long term results are of this technology and to the point of your post, possible unintended consequences. We are putting significant federal , state and local resources into technologies that are starting to concern our country’s top education thought leaders, see this recent letter from the center for online learning: http://tinyurl.com/8qqghdb. The programs in question will be in over 400 schools by 2014. To learn more about one of NYCs largest research projects, see here: http://tinyurl.com/a55atf3. Technology in education should improve access to curriculum and instruction for our most disparate learners, it shouldn’t be at the expense of years of progress in civil rights.

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