Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Digital Learning Dilemma: High-Tech vs. Low-Tech

So, I was back in Boston over the weekend for a family visit and my darling, 3-year-old nephew said, “I like your iPad.”

I was both encouraged and terrified.

He’s not yet reading, but he knows how to find his way (supervised, of course) to his favorite games on the family computer. I should mention that he’s also quite fond of plain, old-fashioned books, the kind where the only sound effects come from the aunt reading the story. But those paper pages don’t seem to hold the same allure as his mother’s smart phone.

I can remember a few years back (in those heady, pre-iPad and electronic reader days) when Leapfrog was donating LeapPads by the thousands to local schools. I heard from more than one kindergarten teacher who disliked the electronic devices, on the grounds that it made their jobs harder. They saw a decrease in their students’ attention spans and level of interest when it was time to focus on actual instruction.

There’s some hard evidence to back up what the teachers were telling me. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that too much screen time affects a child’s attention span. The organization’s experts recommend that children under the age of 2 watch no television (that’s right, none) and that their “screen time” with other electronic devices be severely limited.

There’s no shortage of stories about the push to digitize classrooms. Interactive smart boards are increasingly popular. However, a recent New York Times story questioned whether high-tech instructional tools are even making a difference.

I’d like to hear what you think, and what you’re writing about on the subject. Is there any skepticism among educators in your school districts, or is everyone onboard the high-speed digital train?