Below are some quotes from an article by Jay Griffiths (“Futuristic Overdrive”) published in the Guardian this week. The article considers some important issues about children’s relationship with technology and computers – a subject we’ve commented on recently.
You can read the entire article here – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/10/michael-gove-coding-education
The BBC Radio 4 programme it refers to can be listened to here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03xdldg
It’s the third and final programme in a series that’s called “My Teacher Is An App“.
See also our previous post on this BBC series where we set our detailed points of view on children, teachers and technology –
Teachers are Teachers; Apps are just Apps: the Role of Technology in Education
The use of technology – for children above all – needs to be interrogated. The internet is unsurpassable as a way for the mind to follow its curiosity paths, taking new turns, following diversions, self-directing. But technology should answer yes to the question “is it convivial?”, in the specific sense that Ivan Illich defined in his seminal work Tools for Conviviality. Does this technology enhance freedom and autonomy? Does it aid imagination and promote creative relationships between people, and people and nature? Or does it reduce us to mere consumers?
Social scientist Juliet Schor shows that extensive screen time encourages consumerism, leading children to value money and brands. It induces depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, and harms children’s relationships.
Anonymous users of social media goaded 15-year-old Tallulah Wilson to self-harm: screens turned them off from accountability and empathy, and she killed herself. Toxic technology fails to teach the core curriculum of the human heart: kindness, generosity, self-control, courage and sensitivity.
Children are being treated for addiction to technology, and there can be a fetish quality to their relationships with gadgets. Their animistic imaginations are wrested away from living things to synthetic ones, and cumulatively the authentic world takes second place to the artificial world.
For the Radio 4 broadcast, panellists were asked to sketch an ideal classroom. Mine includes internet and cameras for children to film their imaginations; plus dens, darkness, dogs and trees. Dens (children’s DIY classrooms) are good places for thinking; darkness is helpful for reflection. Nature is vital in education: according to David Ingvar, professor of neurophysiology: “It is necessary to be outside for our brains to be stimulated from the flow of sound, light, shapes and colours.”
Authentic education includes the human body as part of how we think, through the senses. To check the validity of an argument we say “it makes sense”, touching the tactile world and being touched by its contact. When children learn outdoors, studies show improvements in their self-confidence, independence and social skills, better focus, memory and language.
Newer technology is (usually) an improvement on older, but the deeper question is whether it is used to foster a worldview so out of touch with the real world that its future effects (from extinctions to climate change) are far from improvements, or whether its use may be convivial, helping to create a world more humane, wiser and happier, with a sensibility – and an ethic – of authenticity.
See also our previous blog post about the importance of the human senses and what we call “physical intelligence” – More on Physical Intelligence
In it we quote extensively from Sir Ken Robinson’s book, The Element.
It’s also worth listening to the latest of Jim Al-Khalili’s programmes in The Life Scientific series on BBC Radio 4
“Making things and ‘learning through doing’ is as important as reading and writing. It’s an expression of who we are, like music or literature, and ‘everyone should be doing it’. To this end, Prof Mark Miodownik wants our public libraries to be converted into public workshops, with laser cutters and 3D printers as well as books.”