So, when folks talk about “the good old days,” I believe they mean, as Joan Abbott wrote, the generation…

  • “Of Kids who did their homework alone to get out asap to play in the street.
  • When kids spent all their free time in the streets with their friends.
  • Of kids who collected photos & albums of clippings of their life experiences.
  • When kids played board games and cards on rainy days.
  • Whose TVs went off at midnight after playing the national anthem.
  • That had parents who were there…”

Now all gone and often mocked in these device-happy times. Even schools have gone all in.

But for the better?

For starters, as many of our schools fall apart at the seams and teachers struggle to pay their bills, the Learning Counsel tells us that districts spent a whopping $28.3 billion on ed tech in 2019 alone, another $35.8 in 2020, and bumped that up to $38.2 billion this past year. And these are conservative figures…

Used to be, kids filed into a classroom, pulled out notebook, textbook, pen/pencil, and any homework assignments from their weighty backpacks, ready to go. Today, they troop in, pull out Chrome Books and start right in fiddling with the touch pad, faces and minds disappearing into the screen.

Faster, for sure. Info at right at their fingertips and so easy to find. No working for it. No trips to the library poring through the card catalog and searching the stacks for the needed book(s).

But convenience and ease come at a cost beyond the financial.

Research talks more now about the downside of tech including its isolating effects, negative impact on reading, attention, too, and at times, making teachers all but superfluous.

And now, more than ever, teachers have added video games into the mix, saying they individualize learning, develop hand eye coordination and even basic survival skills. Played at home and now in school: A good idea?

As puts it: “Relevant research has proven that technology could change education negatively through four paths: deteriorating students’ competences of reading and writing, dehumanizing educational environments, distorting social interactions between teachers and students, and isolating individuals when using technology.”

  1. Reading: University of Maryland psychologist Patricia Alexander explains that, due to text messaging and social media posts, we read information faster on screens than print on paper—comprehending and absorbing less.

And all the scrolling entailed causes spatial challenges—our sense of place—causing us to lose our way, especially in texts longer than 500 words.

No dogearing pages, no highlighting important facts, no placing post-its on confusing info, and so on, either. Then hit the power button and all gone–and sometimes impossible to relocate. Plus, there’s nothing left behind to put on a shelf to own and revisit.

Case in point: Am crazy about quotes and copied this one down but, inadvertently, not the author’s name. Have looked and looked, but can’t find the site again, so with apologies and thanks to the author:

“Print reading is kind of like meditation—focusing on something that is still. And it’s a whole different kind of immersion than responding to digital stimuli. I think it’s healthy for us as human beings to sit down with something that doesn’t move, ping, or call on our attention.”

  1. Studying: Everything above about print on paper reading, plus, students:
    • Absorb & remember more information.
    • Experience less eye strain.
    • Are less likely to be distracted.
    • Can highlight important info, making notetaking easier.

(Next post: 2-column notetaking.) For now, remind your child and/or students to always study out loud, thus helping get info from the short-term to the long-term memory.)

  1. Note-taking: Typing notes may be faster but causes less awareness of the content, leading to less thoughtful reading and so less retention. (As said, next up: hand-written, 2-column notetaking.)
  2. Test-Taking: Like countless other studies, one from the American Institutes for Research in 2019 found that students who took online standardized tests did worse than those taking the paper versions, “performing as if they’d lost several months of academic learning.”

That includes the Common Core online assessments, the SATs and ACTs, too. For low-income, English language learners, and special needs students outcomes are even worse.

A few suggestions:

  1. If possible, buy reasonably-priced textbooks to keep at home. Sellers include:
  2. You can also request hard copies of reading assignments, or scan the textbook pages yourself at home, so your child can more easily absorb and retain the information, highlighting, making margin notes, etc.
  3. Talk to your child about plagiarizing and cheating now rampant on devices, even during test-taking.
  4. Keep in touch with teachers and request a meeting at the first sign your child is struggling.
  5. Keep devices out of the bedroom, so your child sleeps instead of texting back and forth with friends.
  6. Attend your schools’ parent-teacher meetings whenever you can.
  7. Be a parent volunteer, helping your child’s teacher(s) with such tasks as photocopying and assisting in the classroom, etc. The bonus: You’ll see first-hand how tech is used,  learning lots, too, about the workings of your child’s school and teacher(s).
  8. Put library visits on your to-do list, so your child can find appealing books at their reading level. Of course, buy books, too. They make perfect gifts. After all, nothing beats holding a book between two hands and quietly reading.
  9. Fill your home with books, magazines, comics, puzzles, and make device-free reading a way of life.
  10. Subscribe to a newspaper, local or otherwise. We used to ask kids to seek out bias in the reports, no easy task once upon a time. Now have your child try to separate fact from opinion, so prevalent in the news nowadays. The wording alone can tell the tale. For instance, “The politician said…” vs. “The politician claimed…”
  11. And limit screen time as best you can. Almost impossible I know, but try, like charging cell phones downstairs at bedtime.

With my many thanks, Carol