Adding to the mounting evidence that too much screen time negatively affects youngsters, the National Institute of Health is now engaged in a $300 million study of its own, and preliminary results suggest that it causes “detrimental changes in children which could be hurting their memory, perception, and cognitive ability.” Nevertheless, what’s commonly known as ed tech rules in schools and goes home with students, as well, in the form of online homework.
The latest education buzz word is “personalized learning,” but how personal it is, well, that’s up for debate. Plus, it takes many forms but often puts computers in charge of teaching, with educators taking a backseat as “facilitators.”
As said, there are many variations; for instance:
- Some schools corral the kids into a gym to work on adaptive software. In other words, it adapts to the needs of the user.
- Some turn over all work-related decisions—how, where, when—to students, instead of teachers.
- Some offer 10 to 15 minutes of one-on-one teaching/mentoring per week.
- Some simply give students “flex time,” enabling students to choose their computer start and finish times.
Know, too, about the walk-out by students at the Secondary School for Journalism in Brooklyn. The reason? The high-tech, personalized learning Summit Learning program designed by Facebook engineers and paid for by CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.
About that, said 14-year-old freshman Mitchel Storman, “It’s annoying to just sit there staring at one screen for so long. You have to teach yourself.” In fact, he spends almost five hours a day on Summit classes in algebra, biology, English, world history, and physics.
You’d walk out, too…
On a three-lane highway, I’m happiest in the middle one, though on occasion moving to the left or right. In politics, too, I hug the center, sometimes siding with liberals, at others with conservatives, but always believing in the Golden Rule and a live-and-let-live philosophy. And so, I don’t understand what’s happened to the America I grew up with where people engaged with each other and agreed to disagree civilly, and sometimes even allowing themselves to be swayed to another’s point of view.
Now sides have been taken with swords drawn, and unlike the good old days, even folks like teachers and professors now voice their political views, as do reporters who, too. It’s not necessarily fake news, but it sure as hell is bent. Just take a listen to a few excerpts from “No Right to Protest Whenever, Wherever, by Chris Truax, an appellate lawyer in San Diego, who begins his USA Today piece, “No Right to Protest Whenever, Wherever.”
It begins, “Don Lemon, host of CNN Tonight, had an on-air meltdown last week that culminated in this: ‘In the Constitution, you can protest whenever and wherever you want. It doesn’t tell you that you can’t do it in a restaurant, that you can’t do it on a football field. It doesn’t tell you that you can’t do it on a cable news show; you can do it wherever you want. To call people mobs because they are exercising their constitutional right is just beyond the pale.”
Says Truax, “The First Amendment doesn’t actually give you the right to free speech or the right to protest ‘whenever and wherever you want,’ adding later that, “You have no constitutional right to protest on private property… You have a right to speech free from governmental interference, but you do not have a right to free speech on someone else’s dime…”
He then writes about the “mob” who “ambushed” Senator Ted Cruz in a restaurant shouting, “This is a message to Ted Cruz, Brett Kavanaugh, and the rest of the racist, sexist, transphobic and homophobic right-wing scum. You are not safe. We will find you. We will expose you. We will take from you the peace you have taken from so many others.”
Truax concludes with, “There is much that is broken in our political system. Even so, we cannot restore civility and reason through intimidation and fear. Don Lemon was wrong. Calling out a mob, even if it happened to be exercising a constitutional right, is not beyond the pale. In fact, it’s the right thing—the only thing—to do.
Okay, before all the shouting begins, I’ll apologize for being very old school when it comes to most things, and that includes who teaches kids values, character, manners, and yes, the latest education buzzwords, empathy/social and emotional learning.
Forgive me, but I’m nowhere near ready to abdicate a parent’s a teacher’s role in helping mold children to machines, /devices.
I just happen to believe that parents are out first and most influential teachers, instilling high-mindedness, compassion, and morals in their children, later reinforced at school by nurturing, knowledgeable, and wise teachers in classrooms across the country.
Note that I said teachers, as in people, unlike Rusual Alrubail, executive director of the Toronto, Canada’s Parkdale Centre for Innovation and writer, presenter, and social justice activist. According to her, “One of the most impactful ways ed [education] tech has changed classroom teaching is by introducing lessons in empathy and focusing on social impact in a new and engaging way… It’s important for teachers to know what’s new and how they can leverage technology in the classroom and it’s hard not to be excited by the potential that ed tech holds.”
In the old days, people did all that heavy lifting; nowadays we simply plug a kid into some tech device or other, and let the online folks do the teaching, be it science, math, or, as the dictionary puts it, “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, i.e. empathy.
One of her favorite go-to ______ (apps/ sites) is Lego’s “Emotions” for pre-schoolers. The very idea of leaving kindness up to a machine makes me crazy, but I digress. Alrubail evidently tried it with her four-year-old daughter, who, lo and behold, as a result, “started talking about why the robot was feeling sad, happy, or surprised and started creating stories around their emotions and feelings.”
Forgive me, but you need a tech program by the makers of Legos to do that for her?
Oh, yes, Legos Education also offers accompanying lesson plans that focus on being supportive of anxious peers and the important role extended family members play.
She goes on in this vein and then concludes with: “As educators and parents, many of us are eager to find out about new technologies that will help our children learn. Developing empathy can be a powerful skill set for students—and yes, adults, too. It’s important that we sit down with ed tech, and ask, how is it making a difference in the world?”
So, I ask: Would you prefer to sit down with your kid and share your understanding of the world and how to treat others, etc., or would you prefer to let far-away techies do that for you? Please advise…
(Grammatical errors were not corrected here.”
GAVRIELLE S. KESTENBAUM
310 Maplewood Road, Merion Station, PA 19066, 215-432-2010, Gavi@GaviRD.com
October 29, 2018
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Community service in Philadelphia has been the mainstay of my professional life from my years at the MS Society and Mural Arts Program to the last seven at WIC, first counseling and educating diverse, high-risk, pregnant women and their children to my current position as the organization’s breastfeeding department manager—all balanced out by my love of art.
Indeed, I served as the Mural Arts Program’s first tour coordinator, and, in that capacity, managed and trained docents, wrote the tour training manual, and grew the mural tours from a small operation into a booming success.
And so, while I do not have a background in art history or art education, my artistic nature, coupled with my writing, computing, organizational and presenting skills would serve me well as a gallery educator at the Barnes, as would my parenting experience and ability to work well with people of all ages and backgrounds.
Writing well-designed, compelling lesson plans for children as young as preschool, as well as adults, is another of my strengths and, although always nutrition-based, is easily transferrable to art education, something I am passionate about.
Along with lesson planning, there is also my successful grant writing, effective public speaking, and more than five years’ experience training professionals in my field, developing training manuals, too. And among my many responsibilities as a current WIC supervisor, I also plan and oversee the organization’s outreach events, thus working with a large network of professionals in a wide range of disciplines.
Independent and highly motivated, I enjoy a strong work ethic that serves me and others well, qualities that I would bring to the Barnes as a gallery educator, despite not having an art background. As a quick learner, I would study independently, volunteer and shadow your art educators, thus gaining the necessary experience and expertise.
All I ask is for a chance to meet with you and prove that I would be an asset to the Barnes Foundation. I look forward to hearing from you and thank you for your time and consideration.