Before we purchase, let’s be educated

“I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from evil” (John 17:15)

While recently tutoring at Westside Catholic School in Evansville, I needed a copy of a worksheet that a student had lost. In minutes, her teacher located it online; sent it via email to the office to be copied; and said student retrieved it. With little delay, we were ready to work. What a blessing technology can be!

And, while technology has many positives in the school setting, there have been increasingly more studies illustrating the downside of students using phones in class or personal laptops to take notes during presentations.  However, before delving into those concerns, it may be interesting to note that the high-tech CEOs are sending their children to low-tech schools. In his article, “High-Tech CEOs — Low-Tech Parents: Are We Getting the Message?” Dr. Jim Schroeder discusses some behavioral contradictions of these tech giants who, while encouraging our schools to invest billions in technology (without research to support that it provides for better educational outcomes), insist that their own offspring attend no-tech or low-tech schools. Quite a telling irony!!

An article published in the New York Times, “Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Parent,” written by Nick Bilton found that, “many high-tech parents significantly limited screen time … had clear shut-off times at night and promoted the use of regular books….” Amazingly, “they would not permit their offspring to have iPhones before high school.” Why? Because they were keenly aware of the harmful and addictive nature of the devices that they promote to the public.  You might ask, why do these industry giants champion technology in our schools and homes while putting stringent limits on their own children's home and school tech time?  The answer is as old as dirt – money.

Apple and Microsoft annually spend billions of dollars to increase sales. Similar to McDonalds and its fast-food push, that money is not spent to promote the holistic health (in this case emotional, social and educational) of our children, but, ultimately, to make a profit.

Where does that leave our schools? The overriding question in all of this technological talk is to “reach the intersection of truth versus trend,” says Dr. Schroeder.  We, as educators and parents, must be willing to take an in-depth look at the research available, and also conduct an in-house study of our own students’ grades and achievements over the past 20 years. Can we honestly report that technology has proportionally enhanced our students’ learning? Through his practice and study of the research, Dr. Schroeder has found that the results we are promised when buying into the technology craze are a far cry from the actual results seen. (Find articles at ).

Dr. Schroeder says, “In the educational climate of today, nothing is perceived as more progressive than finding ways to digitize everything students are doing.” However, according to a review of studies from the American Academy of Pediatrics, this group advocates reducing screen time for students due to increasing problems with inattention, noncompliance and poor academic progress.

Rutgers University professor Stuart Green, in an article entitled, “I’m Banning Laptops From My Classroom,” detailed reasons and research behind his decision. He found that multitasking students had less recall and understanding of his subject. He also noted that students taking handwritten notes synthesized the information better, thereby enhancing their understanding of the topic.

Recently, I was speaking with a junior high school parent. He mentioned that his daughter’s teacher assumed everyone had a smartphone; thus, the teacher told her class to use it for a certain task. Inadvertently, decisions like these undermine many parent’s desires for their children not to own such devices.

Parents and teachers must be willing to research and examine the facts and data associated with technology in our schools before purchasing the next, newest technology items. Only then can we provide the best educational practices (and, most likely, save money too)!