Will Technology Ruin Your Child's Development?

Will Technology Ruin Your Child’s Development?

Whether it’s screen time or surfing the web, the majority of parents today have questioned the effects of technology on their children. Many have been left feeling rather confused with the immense amount of data on both sides of the debate. Is the internet going to melt the brains of our kiddos by destroying their ability to focus? Or is it going to open up endless possibilities and prepare them for an ultra-successful future?

Since technology led by the internet age is still, in essence, in its own childhood phase, we have limited resources for determining the full effect on developing minds. We don’t have the ability to examine historical patterns nor do we know how fast things will continue to expand. Nevertheless, there is plenty of data out there to help parents make a fully-educated decision.

The fact is, technology is empirically unavoidable today. There are technological devices and influences in virtually every aspect of our lives, and our children are no exception. Technology influences extend much further than video games and cell phones anymore. In fact, many classrooms are well-equipped with laptops, tablets, whiteboards and other devices to supplement their learning experience.

So how do we determine if these devices are helping – or hurting – the development of our children? According to the US National Library of Medicine’s National Institution of Health (NIH), technology has offered us a wide array of both productive and counter-productive outcomes in terms of the effects on developing minds.

In layman’s terms? Technology is both good and bad for our kids and basically, it’s up to us to weed them out. Before you get discouraged, there are methods that will help you sift through the digital drudge, as well as research to back up which methods are helpful and which ones are – well – not so much.

Technology Brain Food

As the NIH explains, if you think of technology’s effects on your child’s development in terms of “nutrition”, it can help you to gain a better perspective on how to sort it out. We know our children need well-balanced daily meals in order to grow physically healthy and strong, right? You wouldn’t feed your kiddos junk food and sweets every day and expect them to be fit as a fiddle. By the same token, technology is full of “nutritious” and “junk food” influences that will affect your child’s cognitive development.

The Junk Food

“Technology conditions the brain to pay attention to information very differently than reading,” says Dr. Jim Taylor, psychologist and professor at the University of San Francisco. According to his article in Psychology Today, the key to weeding out the “junk food” technology lies in monitoring methods that do not require a deep focus. What does this mean? In comparison with reading, surfing the internet for research is basically giving developing minds too much information too fast. In other words, it keeps kids from focusing on one specific concept. Doing so causes an undeveloped sense of understanding children could otherwise grasp from concentrating on a book.

Anything requiring little to no thought to complete (internet surfing, non-educational video games and television programs, etc.) will have a negative impact on the way brain connections are made. In fact, according to Taylor, influences such as the internet will adversely affect the way our children learn. These mediums bypass the need to focus and leave children “only able to focus fleetingly.”

The Vitamins and Minerals

On the flip side, there are many ways in which technology mediums have a profoundly positive impact on developing minds. These ways, which we’ll call the “vitamins and minerals” of technology, have the ability to improve overall development.

Perhaps the most important aspect to consider is to keep in mind that their futures will be filled with technology. This generation is one that will be engulfed in technology in pretty much every aspect of life, so including it from the beginning is giving them the tools they’ll need for a future filled with technological advancements. Think of digital learning tools as preparing your kids for their digital-filled futures.

According to the NIH, content is the most important thing to consider when filtering the vitamins from the junk food. Content, more than the type of device, is the key to finding what your children will benefit from the most. Ensuring whatever outlet they use (tablets, laptops, mobile phones, and yes, even video games), is used wisely, is the key to keeping their cognitive development healthy. Using nourishing content such as educational games, read-along programs, and digital media like interactive whiteboards to promote a learning experience is the difference between a nutritional digital experience and a junk food one.

Tessa International School Celebrates the Hour of Code

On Monday, December 10th, Tessa International School proudly celebrated The Hour of Code. Each teacher was engaged with her students on an activity related to learning the steps for coding.

What is coding? It is essentially ‘how machines think.’ One way to think about it is it is a set of instructions to follow—much like following a recipe or even conducting a science experiment. Although coding is often thought of as a ‘21st century skill,’ it is essentially the same as teaching procedural thinking (which will eventually become procedural writing), which has been taught in schools for quite a long time.

There is a great debate in academia whether today’s students will use coding as adults (it is not clear, for instance, whether humans will be doing the coding in the future or whether machines will be doing the job), but educators generally do agree that learning the fundamentals of coding develops healthy ‘habits of mind.’ These include teaching students how to:

  • Break down a problem into its component parts
  • Design systems
  • Run small experiments to see which approaches fail and succeed1.

Each teacher at Tessa had a different approach toward teaching coding. And here’s a run-down of what the teachers did:

Ms. Ana

In Ms. Ana’s class, the students learned directional words in Spanish and how the symbols ‘up,’ ‘down,’ ‘left,’ and ‘right,’ translate to moving on a grid. Students gave directions to Ms. Ana for animals to find food and avoid obstacles.

Ms. Sandrine

In Ms. Sandrine’s class, the students did pre-coding activities related to Sudoku and putting a colored puzzle together according to instructions.

Ms. Maritza

In Ms. Maritza’s class the students learned ‘up,’ ‘down,’ ‘left,’ and ‘right’ in Spanish and, connecting the learning to the story, ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’ students gave instructions for animals to be able to see each other on a grid.

Ms. Tatiana

In Ms. Tatiana’s class, the students gave instructions to a Code & Go robot and also played a board game that specifically teaches coding skills.

All in all, it was a fantastic day for learning. The students had a fabulous time learning how robots and machines ‘think.’

 

Reference

  1. “The Coding Revolution” by Annie Murphy Paul in Scientific American, August 2016 (Vol. 315, #2, p. 42-49)

How Interactive Whiteboards Help Children Learn

When many of us grew up, having a white board with colorful markers seemed part of an exciting wave of innovation. No more dusty erasers! Now those are giving way to interactive whiteboards.

These fantastic teaching tools help children learn in many ways:

Interactive White Boards Allow for More Interaction and Customization

Each lesson, teachers can prepare slides, similar to a PowerPoint presentation. However, the software for interactive whiteboards allows teachers and students to annotate what has been written directly onto the screen. For example, if a teacher wants the whole class to solve a math problem, the equation can be typed by the teacher on a slide. Then in class, a student (or group) can go up to the screen and work on solving it using a special inkless “pen”. If there is a mistake, the student can erase it. Unlike an overhead projector, the screen projection can be very large and there is no fumbling around with strange angles. If something is erased by mistake, there is an easy “undo” button that can simply be clicked. If teachers would like to use a hardcopy of a student’s work as an example, they can simply print it out.

Teachers Can Transition Seamlessly Between Topics

The slides can be created and saved by topic for a day, a week, or an entire unit: it’s all up to the educator. If a child misses a day of class, all the teacher needs to do is print out the slides and provide some additional notations. When students struggle with a concept, it is easy to go back over previous slides to make certain that they understood the previous material. Having an interactive whiteboard allows teachers greater organization techniques that everyone will be grateful for.

Objectives Can Easily Be Incorporated into Slides

In a classroom pressed for space, it can be hard to find additional areas to present the day’s objectives amidst the artwork, student work, calendars, and weekly schedules. However with an interactive whiteboard, teachers can post the lesson’s objectives anywhere on the slide. For example, the phrase “analyze the descriptive language in a poem” could be placed on all slides pertaining to that lesson, so that students remember the ultimate objective. This, in turn, will help students develop metacognitive skills so that they are aware of their own academic skills as they develop them.

Links Can Be Integrated into Slides

Today, there is so much supplemental educational material available on the internet, it’s extremely helpful if educators have an efficient way to share it with their students. Whether it’s a video of an inspiring speech or of penguins protecting their eggs, teachers can link to it directly through a word or picture. There is no time lost running over to a computer.

Teachers Can Control Boards from Anywhere in the Classroom

With a special remote accessory, teachers may walk around the classroom as students work while simultaneously annotating the slides and progressing through the lesson. This tool provides teachers with the ability to look at student work to ensure that students are indeed internalizing what is being taught. Furthermore, it allows teachers the ability to manage the whole classroom and see that everybody is on task.

Allows for Interactive Games and Activities

Teachers can create slides that allow students to click on possible answers during review games. This demonstrates if children have learned the material, and allows students to have fun going over what they have learned. Once teachers learn the different functions the software allows, the possibilities seem endless. Students enjoy going up to the board to work, and teachers can keep these games or amend them in the future. Younger students can also problem solve with puzzles and so much more. The possibilities are endless!

Interactive Whiteboards Can be Mobile

Schools can purchase mobile boards that move from room to room. Not every school has teachers fixed in permanent rooms, but there is no reason why technology can’t adapt to meet their needs. As long as the software is on a teacher’s computer, they can use any interactive whiteboard for any lesson.

Interactive whiteboards are, without a doubt, a great feature for a school to have. Students will have more exposure to technology, which is essential in our ever-changing technological world, feel more connected to the material, and teachers can feel better organized with their lesson plans.

If you have any questions about our teaching methodology at Tessa International School, please contact us.