Technology and Children: the pluses and minuses

Computers can be used to great effect in schools and they can also interfere with  development when over-used. Therefore much care should be taken on the part of curriculum coordinators, principals, school boards, and teachers to ensure that students reap the benefits of technology rather than its problems. Districts should not rush to assign one-to-one use of these machines to younger and younger students without also assigning limits on their use. Otherwise we all risk jumping blindfolded onto the technology bandwagon while only later pausing to review the cautionary literature accumulating on potential negative effects.

An article in the March 24 edition of The New York Times, Your Phone Vs. Your Heart, by Barbara L. Fredrickson, shares research results indicating that the development of interpersonal communication potentialities – including the abilities of connecting with others, and of developing empathy – are compromised when screen time interferes excessively with human interaction.

Technology opens up the world to students and can be used to great effect. Connecting with people in other parts of the world through skype, blogs, and email is an important tool for developing global citizenship. Finding, sorting, and using data in meaningful ways to solve problems clearly helps students cognitively. Looking at contemporary art exhibits in countries half-way across the world can enrich an art curriculum. The possibilities are endless.

The challenge is in creating a balance between learning through technology and learning through communicating with the people in your own classroom. Without coordination, a student in a middle or high school could conceivably go from class to class using technology without much interruption the whole day.

What then happens to the biologically-based development of the capacities needed for relationships, social living, and empathy in our citizenry? We need to count on the decision-makers in schools to remember that the ultimate goal of education is creating a better world.



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Kathreen Harrison

About Kathreen Harrison

Kathreen Harrison is a public school teacher in Maine. She has a master’s degree from Bank Street College of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College. She has worked in a variety of schools in New York and Maine in a number of capacities – French teacher, gifted and talented teacher, elementary school teacher, and curriculum coordinator for island schools. She has lived in Maine for 20 years and has a particular interest in school reform.