The Light Keeper

I was inspired to explore the topic of the increase in the involvement of electronic devices after volunteering in an educational summer program for children this past Summer and then observing in at a local elementary school this Fall. Very early on in both of these experiences it was apparent to me that times have drastically changed from even a decade ago when I was in these environments that are essential to young development. Reflecting back on my relationship with technology and how far it has come since then making me realized a lot about the effects it can really have on a generation and their overall development.

At the summer program I noticed the kids always seemed distracted, as if they were constantly missing out on something more stimulating. Many children would bring their iPads/iPods/tablets to camp with them each day and sometimes would not even take part in the activities to sit out and engage themselves in their device. There was an actual instance where I asked a young boy if he wanted to play soccer with the rest of the kids and he replied, “No I actually have an app for that”. Additionally, the children at the school I observed at have a 30-45 minute planned time period that is apart of their daily schedule that is dedicated to time on their iPad. In contrast to when I was younger, almost all of the lessons and activities are done virtually through interactive videos or games.

Infographic: Screen Time Dominates Kid's Play | Statista

2017 chart displays time dedicated to all different types of screen-based or offline activities. Source: Martin Armstrong / Statista.

Technology has changed the way children view the world and as it continuously develops and entangles itself more and more into society it will inevitably change their lives in almost every aspect. It is not to say that these new advancements do not have positive attributes to society and the educational development of children as well. There are many benefits to having these advancement and in many ways they counter its detriments. To explore both the opposing sides to my controversial topic discussed in “The Light Keeper” I decided to invite thoughts from outside sources to explain how they feel about the increasing technology in classrooms, how they believe it will enhance/detriment the children being exposed, and what teachers can do to “preserve the light” within the mind of our youth.

First interview: Mother of three children who all currently attend elementary level schooling

Q1: What is your overall opinion on the continuous increase of technology in classrooms?

  • “I would say I am against this new movement that is occurring within the educational settings of my children. I don’t see the need for all of this extra screen time for students in school. That should be their time to be completely disconnected from the web and be completely engaged in order to benefit socially and academically to the full extent. I’ve decided to put limits on their screen time at home and encourage off-line activities like participating in sports, reading, and general play which is extremely important for children. I feel disappointed in this change in society. These children are being born into a world where they are constantly connected and unwillingly dependent on media of all sorts. “

Q2: How often do your children use technology in their specific classrooms?

  • ” Each of my children have very different classroom environments to my awareness. My one son is in 3rd grade and we had to download an online education program in order for him to complete his homework on. The teacher requests and encourages this system, but I find it unnecessary and distracting for my son. On the other hand, my daughter in 4th grade has an “old-fashioned” styled teacher and I know my daughter wishes it was a more technologically advanced environment since that is what she was so used to with her prior teachers. In my opinion, I have seen much greater progress being made in my daughter’s classroom and agreeing more with her teacher’s methods.”

Q3: What do you think can be done by teachers, educators, or parents to make sure we keep children from becoming too technologically reliant educationally and socially?

  • ” I believe they should instill an understanding of this balance and be aware of the effect too much technology in the classroom can have on students, since it is to assume they are already having exposure time at home. It is a good method to keep the children engaged since it appeals to their generation, but they should still be able to stay focused when it’s not as interactive because not everything in the real world will be created to suit these needs.”

Second interview: A College Student

Q1: What is your overall opinion on the continuous increase of technology in classrooms?

  • “I believe technology has enhanced my learning experience and made learning more interesting overall. I think it can be used as a credible resource and has helped guide me a lot in my educational journey. I see many positive attributes from it and assume it will be incorporated immensely in my future teaching methods.”

Q2: How often did you use technology in your elementary classrooms as a child and what do you think has changed since then?

  •  “In my elementary school I did not use technology as much as it is used today. I believe this is due to the development of modern technology and the fact that technology is becoming the wave of the future.”

Q3: What do you think can be done by teachers, educators, or parents to make sure we keep children from becoming too technologically reliant educationally and socially?

  • “I believe we need to minimize the amount of time children use technology and allow students to have positive experiences without technology to show them the benefits of not being reliant on it. Teachers shouldn’t rid of technology in their classrooms, but make sure it is an appropriate balance where students can remain mindful of reality and independent from electronic devices.”

Third Interview: An Elementary School Teacher

Q1: What is your overall opinion on the continuous increase of technology in classrooms?

  • “I have mixed feelings on this topic. I do see both sides and since I am actually experiencing the cause and effects of these new technology involved procedures, I get to judge them firsthand. Overall, I feel like it is helping the students prepare for the real world since they will definitely have to be exposed to technology in our newly modernized world in order to succeed in it. I also think it is extremely time efficient to be able to have access to online material and information at our convenience that is also up to date. On the other hand, I’ve been teacher for over 20 years now and I do see a difference in the attitudes and social awareness of the students.”

Q2: How often do your students use technology in your specific classroom?

  • “They don’t have individual iPads in class like a lot of other NYS elementary school have, but we do a lot of group activities on the smart board. I like to find different songs and videos that will help them remember certain facts or concepts.”

Q3: What do you think can be done by teachers, educators, or parents to make sure we keep children from becoming too technologically reliant educationally and socially?

  • “I believe teachers and parents should stay actively aware of the times and incorporated this idea into the lives of the children. I believe it is our responsibility, the teachers of the youth, to make our own opinions on what will be most effective in teaching the students while keeping in mind the distinction that needs to be made aware between technology and education. We need to continue to encourage play apart from online gaming and TV based programs. Emphasizing the importance of in person social-interaction between the students so they learn true connection and don’t lose these crucial skills. I hope that the benefits technology has given us in terms of education will prevail and outdo the impending setbacks for the well being of the students.”

From this interview, I received different outlooks that either agreed with or refuted my central claim and I was able to learn from and take ideas from both sides.

Follow this hyperlink to read Sarah Pleines’ project statement.