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Old 06-16-11, 11:33 PM
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Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

I haven't been on in a while... I changed my name here because I work with a lot of people in my community and did not want any of those I work with to somehow connect my personal views here with what I do...

I really hope you don't mind me venting here... but I am not sure if others will understand what I have to say... I want to share it with others in my community, but don't want to open myself up to others' judgments... but you guys will know where I am coming from. Please don't flame me... I understand that we all have different views on some of these issues, but I really need someone to hear me out on the ADD side of this. I just don't know where else to go where people will understand.

I live in a community that is introducing iPads to kindergartners this fall. Yes, all kindergartners, and many pre-k and daycare kids. They plan to provide new ones each year until 3rd grade. The kids will be allowed to take them home (yes, kindergarten kids will take them home) and there is no curriculum in place, nor a time limit on how much they can be used in the classroom. They are to be used for reading, writing, art, math, anything that the teacher(s) want.

I am a semi-computer addict. I don't use facebook much, but I am addicted to news, research, etc. I can spend HOURS on the computer and not even realize it. Then I hate that I have spent so much time when I get off. But I can't stop, though I am trying. It is something I am trying to deal with. And something that I think many adults with ADD have to battle- whether it is the computer, phone, iPad, whatever. It IS distracting. It is HARD to stay focused on one thing on the computer, and not get lost in many things. It can feed into the very core problems of ADD, at least for me and some others I have talked to.

I see this in my students. I am a teacher, and my students have laptops, and they cannot function without the screen in front of them. If there is no screen (comp. or cellphone) they don't know what to do with themselves. Can they multi-task? Yes. Does it make some kids have worse ADD symptoms? Yes. Do they know how to function without a screen? No.

And all of this brings me to the iPads and what they could do to kids. What would I have done, undiagnosed, if I had been given this technology in kindergarten all the way through high school? I would NOT have been able to focus on my school work. It was already a struggle. If I had that tool in front of me, I would have been on that non-stop. How many undiagnosed adults would have been able to regulate their time on computers as kids? Almost none? Not me. Having that distraction from age 5 would have crippled me. The kids I have in class now (ages 11-14) would be even worse off had they had a computer since age 5.

Our schools district has said that all of the studies that have been done on screen time (and screen time restriction recommendations) do not apply to iPads. According to them, the iPads are different because they are interactive. So any of these arguments, personal stories, etc. are not considered valid since they only looked at television or computer impact. According to the schools, they are "redefining screen time" (their words). Pediatricians, OTs, and other medical professionals have spoken out against their implementation of this program. And they don't care.

What are we doing to kids giving them this technology so early? Could it be a powerful tool? Yes! Could it also be dangerous to some kids' undiagnosed attention problems (not to mention obesity, motor skills, and other problems)? Yes! I would have been a mess had I been given an iPad with no time restrictions and to take home in K and up through high school. And I did WELL in high school (4.0) but I had to work my butt off to work through my attention issues.

I want to cry for these kids. I want to yell at our school board and tell them they have no idea what they are doing to a large number of kids. I almost cry when I think of how different it would have been for me. And they don't care. They aren't listening to parents, or teachers, or medical professionals. I don't know what to do. I just don't know.

Here's a snippet of an article cited by one of the tech leaders in our district. It illustrates their warped understanding of attention and distraction (emphasis is from the original article, not me):

"Attention and distraction

That’s not to discount the attention-fragmenting nature of the web. “Facebook is amazing because it feels like you’re doing something and you’re not doing anything,” Vishal’s best friend, Sam, says in the story, after blaming the site for his inability to finish books and, thus, for his lower-than-desired SAT scores. And a distraction Facebook most certainly is. The question, though, is: distraction from what? And also: What’s inherently wrong with distraction? It seems to me that the real dichotomy here — to the extent, of course, that it’s fair to break any complex problem into reductive dualities — is less a matter of focus vs. distraction, and more a matter of the digital age’s spin-off opposition: interest vs. non-interest. Caring vs…lack of."
Article link



I want to cry.
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When the dose is working, all the noise in my head is quiet. I can look up at an airplane and not immediately imagine the people in it, the feel of aluminum rivets, and wonder what Daniel Bernoulli's personal politics were and what he liked for breakfast.

It's quiet. I can think about what I want to think about, and not random trivia shoved into my brain by the environment. It's actually very peaceful and calm in my medicated brain.

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Old 06-17-11, 12:42 AM
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Re: Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

Vent away!!

Without a curriculum in place, I have trouble seeing how these will be effectively utilized for any age group.

The school district where I live issued laptops to all middle school children a few years ago. They were going to have wi-fi in the hallways of every school as well. That didn't happen. The computers can be brought home each evening and used for whatever (with the exception of porn and other restricted sites). Not just school work. The consensus on whether it was a good idea was divided. Without getting into all of that, I can say that at my son's middle school, the laptops have been a help. But we also have a home computer. At the other two middle schools, the computers sit in student's lockers unused for most of the year. He didn't need a laptop to do his work, but some of his teachers used them to work on projects in class (such as his aerospace class and pre-ap science) I honestly think they are a waste of money in this case. I would think the same if they issued them iPads.

Giving 4 and 5 year olds iPads is like burning money. First, they are fairly fragile. Drop one and have it land just so and it's smashed. Second, how do they plan on utilizing them for teaching without a curriculum? Are there free apps that teach spelling, reading, math that follow district curriculum?

While I think that iPads can be used as a learning tool, I think that giving them to kids that young without a curriculum in place is merely giving them a toy. Even with a curriculum, I'd be hard pressed to issue them to kids that young.

Most kids have access to computers, either at home or school. Some probably already have an iPad in their home. iPads aren't cheap. Even if the district gets a discount. Three hundred iPads at $699.00 each (I'm assuming that they are buying 3G version) is roughly $200,000. If not 3G, it's still $149,000. That's a lot of money to help teach how to read, math and spelling or even music.

I know that a lot of schools around the country are doing this, calling it a revolution! I realize the importance of keeping up with technology, too. But I think kindergarten is too young for this. What if young Timmy leaves his iPad at home? Does he not learn that day? Does the school have extras? What if one is broken? Is there insurance to replace them? Do the schools have extras to issue for that as well? What is the real cost of the iPads? How many teachers or teachers aids' salary can be paid from the money spent on the iPads? There are programs being cut around the nation, teachers losing their jobs, schools getting rid of RN's and replacing them with LPN's to save money. The long-term cost of the iPads just doesn't equal the benefits, IMHO.

There are a lot of complaints about the iPads screens causing users eyes to hurt if used for a long period of time. How many parents are going to allow their child to use the iPad excessively at home? It's a great babysitter and keeps kids occupied, much better than the television. Not to mention, the school district passed them out, so he/she is learning something! We all know parents like this, who think like this.

Another thing is, if a teacher isn't a good teacher or students aren't grasping concepts, I'm not sure an iPad will remedy those problems or increase test scores or comprehension. A poor teacher guiding students on an iPad isn't going to magically become a better teacher. She still has to do some amount of teaching. Is there any proof anywhere that these work better than a teacher actually giving a lesson in math or teaching reading and spelling the old fashioned way?

I'm not against technology and I do think that is the direction teaching is headed. But c'mon? Kindergarten and preschoolers having their own iPads? I'm not for it either. I think there are better ways to spend a school district's money.
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Old 06-17-11, 12:58 AM
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Re: Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

I am a middle school teacher and our kids are getting laptops next year. (I wanted ipads...but surprisingly, it seems I have very little pull...) I am ready for the switch and am spending my summer transferring what I do now to the digital format, but I know many teachers won't do this, and it will be a waste of money in those particular classes.

I think the advent of technology is inevitable, and we can't stop or change the fact that digital is replacing paper, whether that's for writing, reading, or what have you. Some people will stick their heels in and refuse to change, and they'll be left behind. (Not speaking about YOU - you have some very legit concerns. Referring to the stodgy teachers I work with.)

Some school administrators seem to think you can take a "just add technology" approach and expect it to automatically improve the quality of education. Teachers HAVE to be given more guidance on how to use them (that's where that cirriculum part would come in handy.) If you hand a 5-year-old an ipad for the day without a plan, you're clearly asking for disaster, especially for those teachers who may not be very tech-savvy. The kids will have them figured out the first day and the teacher will be playing catch up all year.

My main point is always this: technology is a tool. When it's incorporated thoughtfully into already sound teaching methods, it improves things, just as any new and better tool does. But if the person in charge of operating the silly thing (in this case, the teacher) doesn't really buy into it or know what he/she is doing, then it's not going to help things at all. Someone I work with once brought up an interesting idea. Think back to when students each had their own little chalkboard, and then things began to transition to paper and pencil. There were probably some teachers who thought the entire thing was a disaster and would never work...those teachers probably proved themselves right

As far as not being able to focus as well...for me personally, 99% of that is the internet. If I am able to use my computer just for word processing, for example, it works for me really well. However, having that icon in the corner is just too tempting a lot of the time...In my students' cases, they have a light on their computers when they're online. If I tell them they're not to be online and I see that light, I'm slapping them with a detention right off the bat. Otherwise it will be out of control.

I think it's crazy to do what your area is doing and just start it all at once with no planning and no "baby steps." It's like having someone turn in their horse and buggy and giving them a car with no lessons.
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Old 06-17-11, 01:04 AM
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Re: Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

I also think it's worth adding that we are on the brink of a revolution in terms of how we communicate and, well...do EVERYTHING. Within that storm of change there are going to be all sorts of crackpot theories. People want to change the way they approach the world, but oftentimes we use deduction to come up with conclusions that are flat-out wrong. Time will reveal who's right and who's wrong, so I think it helps to keep a "big picture" approach rather than a catastrophic one. The pendulum swings back and forth. If the ipad plan is a disaster (sounds like it will be) then it will be obvious to the general public sooner rather than later.
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Old 06-17-11, 01:18 AM
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Re: Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

Thank you for your feedback! Just for clarity's sake, for any future posters, here are a couple of details:

I am 26 years old and a middle school teacher. ALL middle schoolers in my state have school-issued laptops and wi-fi at school. They are macbooks, so we cannot tell if they are online without looking at each individual computer These computers go home with them. EDIT: This laptop program has been in our schools for 10 years and our student performance rates and dropout rates have not improved since before those 10 years.

I use the laptops frequently in my class.

This same school district giving iPads (where I live, not where I teach) also does not block facebook in the middle school because teachers are supposed to teach responsible use of technology, not encroach on students' freedom (even though MANY parents have complained and vast majority of teachers want it blocked). Yes, kids can get around the blocks, but it is ILLEGAL to use FB if you are under 13. Also, if it is not blocked, you cannot issue a consequence for using facebook at school.

Each iPad costs $479 (low-end, with a discount). Repairs for laptops have not been part of the budget given to the public.

The district cut several positions and yet is still purchasing 409 iPads in the fall, in addition to 100 purchased this year.

Some anecdotal evidence from the first 100 iPads passed out... one teacher was having problems getting kids to count on their fingers... but she found an App that helped them... if a teacher can't teach a kid how to count on their fingers and needs an App to do that, why is she teaching?!?!
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Originally Posted by Dogsquat View Post
When the dose is working, all the noise in my head is quiet. I can look up at an airplane and not immediately imagine the people in it, the feel of aluminum rivets, and wonder what Daniel Bernoulli's personal politics were and what he liked for breakfast.

It's quiet. I can think about what I want to think about, and not random trivia shoved into my brain by the environment. It's actually very peaceful and calm in my medicated brain.

I like being a zombie.
My mind is quiet!!
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Old 06-17-11, 01:31 AM
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Re: Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

They tryed implementing a laptop program into our school.

Almost everyone's marks dropped drastically enough for them to abandon the whole thing.
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Old 06-17-11, 02:14 AM
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Re: Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enigma33 View Post
Thank you for your feedback! Just for clarity's sake, for any future posters, here are a couple of details:

I am 26 years old and a middle school teacher. ALL middle schoolers in my state have school-issued laptops and wi-fi at school. They are macbooks, so we cannot tell if they are online without looking at each individual computer These computers go home with them. EDIT: This laptop program has been in our schools for 10 years and our student performance rates and dropout rates have not improved since before those 10 years.

I use the laptops frequently in my class.

This same school district giving iPads (where I live, not where I teach) also does not block facebook in the middle school because teachers are supposed to teach responsible use of technology, not encroach on students' freedom (even though MANY parents have complained and vast majority of teachers want it blocked). Yes, kids can get around the blocks, but it is ILLEGAL to use FB if you are under 13. Also, if it is not blocked, you cannot issue a consequence for using facebook at school.

Each iPad costs $479 (low-end, with a discount). Repairs for laptops have not been part of the budget given to the public.

The district cut several positions and yet is still purchasing 409 iPads in the fall, in addition to 100 purchased this year.

Some anecdotal evidence from the first 100 iPads passed out... one teacher was having problems getting kids to count on their fingers... but she found an App that helped them... if a teacher can't teach a kid how to count on their fingers and needs an App to do that, why is she teaching?!?!

Of course teaching is moving towards more technology. I've no objections to that. Provided that teachers still teach. A piece of technology isn't going to teach children what they need to know all by itself. Can kids really benefit from using technology in school? Sure. Can they learn more or more effectively? Possibly. It all depends on the learning environment and the teacher. If a teacher can't teach, an iPad won't make a whole lot of difference. It's just one more thing added to teacher's plates. I sometimes think district heads think that the newest gadget will make things easier and better, but don't really think things through before making decisions. I've always said that maybe each of them at admn. needs to come back to the classroom and teach for a few weeks. Or even a day.

Most of the times, parents aren't against the technology itself. But we can usually see where the money used for things like iPads for pre-k and k would be better spent. I'd rather take the $35.00 we put down as insurance on the student issued computers (and the cost of the computers themselves) and put it to use somewhere else.

While our student computer program isn't a failure, it isn't a success either. Scores aren't any higher, kids aren't learning any faster or even more effectively. We were promised it would be a success and that within 2 years, the program would be implemented at the high schools. Well, that hasn't happened either. The kids at the high schools don't want them and are happy they don't have them anymore.

Like you said Demfab, if the teacher balks at learning how to teach with a piece of technology, he/she will be behind all year. How does that affect his/her students and their learning? The teachers who welcome the change still have struggles, also. Adding new technology can add a lot more responsibility on a pre-k or k teacher in addition to what the district and state requires them to teach. Enigma, you're right, the teacher shouldn't be teaching if she can't teach her students to count on their fingers, but an app can.

Call me old fashioned, but I've always said that some of the best teachers I've had and encountered didn't need teaching tools or technology. You could give them a stool and sit them under a tree with their students and the kids would come away learning more than the kids with poor teachers and all of the resources and technology money can buy. Of course that's really an exaggeration. But technology isn't a substitute for good teaching. Will 4 and 5 year olds really gain any educational benefit from using an iPad? Maybe. If nothing else, maybe they will learn how to take care of electronics.
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Old 06-17-11, 08:17 AM
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Re: Technology, kids & ADD (vent!)

They should give them a a free pair of prescription glasses along with it. Sorry. it is a pretty awful thing to introduce kids to technology this early on.

I'm actually basing my first sci-fi novel on modern technology and what it does to the brain.

You should read The Shallows by Nicholas Carr. He goes into how the internet and most of modern technology can change the way we think. People are more impatient, forgetful, addicted, glasses wearing, multitasking but cannot do just one thing at a time and even those Kindle books are even more distracting and not as relaxing as and good ol book.
I recommend you check out that book. It is my Bible.
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