A recent news article reminded me there is a down side to using devices in the classroom:

Learning software in classrooms earns praise, causes debate: https://apnews.com/620924b7d5544841a0b0398dfb9c6e7d
The question, it seems to me, is the same question all parents have grappled with since … well, since parenting became a thing we do here on planet earth.  At home, the answer is limits.  When you provide a device to a child for the purpose of learning, it is important to lay out some ground rules first.  The device belongs to the parents.  They worked for the money that paid for the device.  They have provided the device.  How the device is used is entirely up to them.

Some parents only allow device use in public places, such as the kitchen table.  Good idea.  Another good idea is turning devices in at bedtime, so that every child in the house with a device, be it a smartphone or a laptop, must place their device(s) on mom or dad’s dresser before bed.  Maybe you set up a charging station right there on the dresser, so there is an additional purpose for placing the device there.

There are also monitoring systems you can purchase, such as Disney’s Circle.  https://meetcircle.com/

In school, the answer is balance.  Please don’t think that schools are plopping kids down with a device and abdicating their role of teaching.  Devices in the classroom does not mean the teacher is taking a less active role.  Usually, just the opposite is true.  Teachers have to be more active because students may all be doing something different.  The teacher is monitoring this and making sure each student is doing what each student needs to be doing.  And if the activity is best served by the traditional pencil and paper, that is what the thoughtful teacher will be asking learners to use.

As a librarian, I have been asked for at least a decade now, “When will you be replacing all these books with digital copies?” or “How long do you think books will be around?”  I know that I prefer to hold an actual book in my hand.   When I ask my students, my digital native learners, what they prefer, I get the same answer:  real books.  As long as books remain the more convenient option, there will always be books around because they serve a purpose a device just can’t serve.  You can flip through a book.  You can pick it up any time and just dive in.  No need to plug in, log in, or charge up. So balance is the key.  Just because a digital tool is an option doesn’t mean it will become the only option.

What we’re aiming for is the right tool at the right time for the right purpose.  Sometimes, that is a laptop or a tablet.  Other times, it’s just a plain old piece of paper.


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