Thursday, December 10, 2009

Children who use technology are 'better writers'

Recently at work we've had a discussion about an article from the BBC claiming that "Children who use technology are 'better writers'." Some of the comments people made were great. They made me think of the National Rifle Association and I came up with this slogan:

"Technology doesn't make people stupid, people using technology makes people stupid"

Actually, I don't really believe that but the numbers are staggering. In one recent presentation I heard these statistics:

An average 21-year-old in the US today has:

- Watched 20,000 hours of TV
- Played 10,000 hours of video games
- Sent or received 250,000 E-mails and/or text messages

If you have read Malcolm Gladwell you would know that he believes it takes approximately 10,000 hours to master something like playing an instrument or a sport or almost any complicated human skill. He cites Bill Gates and The Beatles as two examples of people who spent countless hours developing their skills in a single area and how that helped them become so successful at what they did in life.

If we can agree with Gladwell, and these statistics are correct, then we are, indeed, raising a generation of people who have mastered skills in areas that many of us might not consider useful (at the expense of opportunities to become skilled in other more important areas).

When I speak with parents and educators who are calling for us to do more to integrate technology in the educational experience I always describe how I believe it's all about what you do with the technology. The statistics above indicate that most young people focus their use of technology on social and entertainment behaviors. Our job as educators is to take the lead and design a curriculum that takes advantage of the technology but that also focuses the student's energy in a direction we believe will help them grow intellectually and academically. I see that happening everyday. We can certainly do more, but it does happen everyday.

Some people are advocating for the elimination of books in schools. Libraries should be electronic they say. I'm not sure the jury has made that decision just yet. I have worked with many teachers over the years who combine technology with the reading of books. The simplest and perhaps most profound experiences are those where E-mail discussion groups or blogs are utilized around what the class is reading. This allows discussion to expand beyond the classroom and gives new opportunities for people to share their thoughts in another context. Others have combined the creation of multimedia with the text of poetry and books. These are wonderful ways to integrate technology and maintain the traditional experience of reading.

Please let me know if you are interested in exploring these ideas in more depth. I would love to work with you on them. Educators learn best from each other and I often lead teacher technology share-a-thons for faculty. If you have something you'd like to share please join in the conversation.

Thanks! Brad

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