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Should Schools Reconsider Cellphone Bans?

Some school districts have implemented restrictions on students' cellphone use, but parents and others caution against all-out bans, saying the phones are useful during instruction and for helping parents stay in touch during emergencies. Elizabeth Kline, vice president for education of Common Sense Media, said educators should "have a plan, not a ban."

 

 

Harry Potter Wands Teach Math and Coding

Seventh-grade students at one Pennsylvania middle-school are using Harry Potter wands to learn coding and complete puzzles on a tablet. Students use their math skills to program the wands to perform "spells" such as create fireworks on the screen. Parents can buy the same wand on Amazon for about $70.

Screen-Time Rules From a Mom and Teacher

A middle school teacher and mom shares her “School Year Screen Time Rules” in a blog post on the Common Sense Media site, recognizing that tech is never going to be a one-size-fits-all thing. She writes that what works for some kids will not work for others and that finding what is best for your family can involve a bit of trial and error. Her three biggest recommendation for parents are: to know what their children are playing and when, to control the WiFi, and when in doubt, remove the temptation. Most of all she recommends balance - especially knowing when it is time to unplug, both for parents and kids.

Can A Fitbit Predict Loneliness?

MobiHealthNews reports that a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows data from Fitbit and smartphone devices can be used to predict loneliness among college students. Students with high levels of loneliness were in fewer social places during weekdays and spent less time outside of campus at night and on weekends, the research found.

Toddlers Learn Best in No Screen Settings

Little ones can easily be mesmerized by digital screens. A cartoon character on TV  asking questions and pausing for a response can bring them to a complete halt. But science shows that children under the age of 30 months rarely learn from such encounters. A study of 176 toddlers aged 24 and 30 months gauged four different conditions under which children would best learn the name of a new object: directly from a person with the child, a responsive video chat, an unresponsive video, or an unresponsive live person. None of the toddlers learned under the video conditions, which Vanderbilt University researcher Georgene Troseth says is “because to toddlers, a flat image of a person on a screen isn't ‘real’, so their brains tell them what they are seeing isn't personally relevant and not something they can learn from.” This study is further proof that toddlers need face-to-face interactions with living breathing humans in order to learn new information.

Teacher Finds Students Focus Without Phones

Frustrated that smartphones were competing for students' attention in the classroom, Nevada Spanish teacher Debbie Simon started asking students to lock their phones in a magnetically sealed pouch before class began. Despite some initial backlash, Simon says in an interview in the The Epoch Times, after just a few days the students said that they felt more focused and engaged in lessons. This solution has been implemented by many schools and even concert venues. What will your school’s policy on cellphones be this coming school year?

Using Technology to Create Connections

Despite having more technology than ever, people are feeling increasingly disconnected, says Mandy Manning, 2018 National Teacher of the Year. Education Dive recapped the International Society for Technology in Education conference where Manning spoke recently. Manning remarked that an updated Gallup poll that found only 43% of U.S. students feel hopeful about their future, a 4% decrease from 2017, and 36% said they feel stuck. She also added that 23% reported feeling actively disengaged and 21% feel discouraged. Lack of hope leads to a lack of resilience, and when students are not resilient, they cannot learn or connect to one another, Manning added. She feels that parents and teachers should help students use technology to connect and develop compassion and empathy.

Teachers and Students Too Distracted by Mobile Devices

Ever hear of "Nomophobia" (the fear of being without a mobile phone) or Textaphrenia (the fear of being disconnected)? Many teachers believe that their students could be suffering from these and some were even honest enough in a recent survey to say that they have a touch of both as well.  The survey also reported that 80 percent of teachers say their students "multi-task" during instructional time, using their devices while they are supposed to be paying attention to a lesson. 61 percent believe that "multi-tasking" has affected students' ability to learn.

Research Shows Mixed Results on Using Technology in Lower Grades

Research on how technology affects student achievement continues to show mixed results. A recent report by the Reboot Foundation shows a negative connection between a nation’s performance on international assessments and 15-year-olds’ self-reported use of technology in school. The more students used technology in schools, the lower the nation ranked in educational achievement.

In the United States, the results were more complicated. For younger school children, the study found a negative tie between the use of tablets in school and fourth-grade reading scores. Fourth-grade students who reported using tablets in “all or almost all” classes scored 14 points lower on the reading portion of a test administered by the federal government than students who reported “never” using classroom tablets. That’s the equivalent of a year of education or an entire grade level. Meanwhile, some types of computer usage among older students could be beneficial. Eighth graders who reported using computers to conduct research for projects had higher reading test scores than those who didn’t use computers for research.

Of course, as has been true since the beginning of educational technology, the presence of technology in the classroom completely depends on how teachers are directing students to use it. It is important to make sure that technology is not being used as a substitute for books, worksheets, and other passive presentations of educational material. As the article points out, the study also wasn’t able to see what happened to student test scores before and after the introduction of technology and compare those with similar students who continued to toil with pencil and paper. 

Social Media Alerts Stress Young People

Keeping up with a constant stream of social media notifications on their phones is one of the main drivers of stress among students, reports The Associated Press. Some schools are taking steps to help reduce students' stress and anxiety, such as  engaging students in mindfulness activities, hiring outside firms to scan social media for signs that students might need additional support, and encouraging “unplugging” from devices. One teacher says he has seen a profound shift toward constant self-evaluation in the past 30 years that he’s been teaching, and he associates that with social media. He sees students constantly checking their Instagram, SnapChat, and even school grade portals – all outside forces students have never before had to manage.

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