When you follow the daily Twitter conversation around education as regularly as we do, several common themes emerge.
Perhaps no issue gets debated more than the impact of technology on education.
For many parents, teachers, and education “experts” mobile phones, tablets, and other devices hold the key to classroom innovation. And, like it or not, social media has become a primary channel for schools to communicate with students and their communities.
Tech giants such as Google and Apple have gone to great lengths to ensure their products are vital parts of any classroom setup. These same companies recruit teachers, school leaders, even students, as ambassadors for their products.
But as many tech enthusiasts espouse the transformative potential of technology in school, others ask whether a perceived overreliance on technology does more harm than good.
Helping or hurting?
Just last week, two investment groups that own a small stake in Apple wrote an open letter to the company that raised concerns over the effects of technology on childhood development.
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As the New York Times reports, the aim of the letter from Jana Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System encourages Apple to find ways to mitigate the potential harmful effects of its products on children, even as it continues to grow its business in schools.
As the letter states:
“We believe that addressing this issue now will enhance long-term value for all shareholders, by creating more choices and options for your customers today and helping to protect the next generation of leaders, innovators, and customers tomorrow.”
The New York Times cited two reports which suggest that digital technology might contribute to more distracted students and contribute to mental health issues in teenagers.
The Apple letter comes on the heels of a hotly circulated critique by former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya that social media is damaging society.
As he said in a speech at the Stanford Graduate School of Business:
“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem—this is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem.”
Palihapitiya is so concerned with the psychological effects of social media that he’s banned his children from using it altogether.
Palihapitiya isn’t the only former Facebook exec to suggest a dark side to social media. Former president Sean Parker recently said he too thinks Facebook and other social media apps take advantage of a human psychological vulnerability and calls himself a “conscientious objector” of the technology, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Do recent warnings from Silicon Valley leaders suggest schools should eliminate technology from K-12 classrooms altogether?
But school leaders and educators should take a breath and consider all the possible effects on their students before adopting a new technology or digital tool. And, they should give their communities ample say in those decisions.
As technology becomes more synonymous with education, school districts should help lead the national dialogue about how technology impacts students in school and in life.
What steps is your school or district taking to include its community in technology-based decisions? Do you have a system for evaluating the advantages and drawbacks of new programs or devices? Tell us in the comments.