Continue the ban of mobile internet tools in K-12 classrooms.
By Cindee Karns
I started my on-line Integrative Education Master’s Degree in 1998. I graduated and was hired as that school’s online “Walmart Greeter.” In that job from 2000-2008, I taught mostly Montessori teachers from all over the world how to access the web and
to use their mobile tools to participate in the learning process, particularly digital cameras/videos. I now am teaching permaculture on-line. I rely heavily on those and newer mobile tools for student assessments.For me, mobile tools are essential for on-line learning. That said, I truly believe that they are not necessary in the K-12 classroom.
Our school system was modeled after America’s amazing inventions of the Industrial Revolution: first interchangeable parts during the Civil War Era and then Henry Ford’s movable assembly line, which allowed us to crank out Model Ts every 6 minutes.
These inventions changed the way America worked. It’s not surprising that America designed its school system to match. For over 100 years teachers have been opening young minds, pouring in facts and moving them down the assembly line. Now, as we move from the era of machines to the era of technology, it’s no wonder that we are changing our school system to fit the technological view of the world. Unfortunately students are not part of a machine, and any business model does not belong in education. (Kohn, p.1)
Over the course of my K-12 teaching career (1985-2008), I learned that students would gravitate to technology,but they didn’t always get things accomplished. Technology was fairly distracting to the learning process, especially since I only had students 45 minutes a day. I hated wasting class time on it, but always offered extra credit for using technology at home or at the public library. I taught computers after school and, during the summer of ’96, I did a 2 week computer camp. But even with the use of computers, some students weren’t learning.
I started experimenting in the early 90s with simulations. Gaming is a great way to learn. What I learned was that students RETAINED the information from the simulation. In order for brains to remember anything—-especially History facts—-the learning needs to be attached to experiences. Once students experienced being a slave on a slave ship or being blacklisted by the union, they were able to attach the facts to it. Those facts could easily be found on the internet. The internet is a great encyclopedia, but it is not a learning machine.
So what is learning? Curtis Jay Bonk, in The World Is Open believes that learning anything is learning. It seems like he has not left the industrial model behind. He’s urging teachers let the computer dump random facts in each student’s head to personalize the learning. Just like our assembly lines in the business world, he is urging us to computerize our assembly line model of the school system. Instead of having students move down the assembly line, he’s suggesting that each student is put together by a computer. So he believes that if computers are available for kids to use, learning will happen. Is that the kind of student we want? A unique model, an individual model?
Learning is happening everywhere and almost everyone has access to a computer in Alaska these days. The internet in the villages is at dial up speed, but it’s accessible. Many, many children go home from school, they are often alone since both parents work. They get on their computers, ipads, iphones and play games, chat, watch movies,etc. That alone is a danger since so many parents don’t give instructions/rules to their kids about internet safety. When they finish with that they are doing, they go to the TV where they watch TV all night—even during dinner. Students rarely have interaction with people. It seems to me that adding mobile tools to school could be the end of communicating with people face to face. When there is a conflict in a game on line, students just turn off the computer. They don’t have to deal with it.
So why don’t students stay home all day and learn from the computer? Why do we need school at all? What is the purpose of school when anyone can learn at any time or any place? I say it’s to teach students to be citizens of the planet, to teach them how systems work and most importantly, to learn to problem solve together. School is a perfect place to teach those skills.
However, if you believe that the purpose of school is to get students ready for the business world, businesses aren’t wanting students who can look things up on the internet. They are wanting problem solvers who can work with other people and get things done. In an office you can’t just turn people off when they get annoying, you have to learn to deal with them. As I retired in 2008, I noticed that interacting with adults was becoming more and more of an issue with students. They really weren’t interacting with anyone at home anymore.
What is important in school is a teacher with a computer and a computer projector. Teachers need to role model how to use the internet. They need to show kids reliable information and how to know what sites are truthful and which are not so truthful. Class discussions need to happen around the issues of believability and authenticity. Can any media site that is owned by Rupert Murdock be trusted? That’s a very good conversation to have. Unfortunately most parents aren’t talking to their kids about it and their kids still believe, even in 8th grade—that if it’s on the internet, it’s true.
We need a revolution in education, not just a technology makeover. We are facing huge issues as humanity: 400 parts per million of carbon in our atmosphere and still rising (350ppm is the max); huge super storms, peak rare earths (to make all of our mobile tools), peak oil (we’ve used the easy-to-reach oil, the rest will be super expensive and possibly harmful to get out), economic stresses, modern day slavery, health care and just look at our congress. We need to learn how to communicate to each other again.
For all of these reasons, I strongly recommend that children be limited in their electronics use during school hour since they get so much of it outside of school. I recommend a new way to teach: problem based learning (with only one or two computers in the room to check facts), so that kids can learn to solve problems together. Maybe someday in the future, we might have a congress that can actually pass laws.