Stop trying to figure out if screentime is good for students

Pro-technology response to the NYT “No Child Left Untableted,” skewing almost as much in the opposite direction.

20131104-081948.jpgConducting device-focused research makes as little sense as doing research on pens, papers, folders, book-binding, and three-ring notebooks. Where are the papers, studies and statistics on the negative impact of chalk dust, calling for blackboards to be limited? We must understand that it’s not about “the thing;” It is about what we do with the thing and what the thing can do for us.– Stop trying to figure out if screentime is good for students.

Yes, we should study what we can do with the thing, but I disagree that we should stop focusing on the device itself. We are doing our students a disservice if we focus on how the device helps them consume instructional materials in class. (After all, the blackboard at the front of the room belongs to the teacher; students are told when they are permitted to use one part of the blackboard, and what they are supposed to write there. A student’s individual slate is also under control of the teacher, who tells the student what to write for homework. A tablet is worthy of study as a thing in itself, because it enables student to create in an unprecedented variety of ways. If we aim to make our students as comfortable creating content as they are consuming it (from science lab reports to historical documentation to news reportage to ethical case studies to entrepreneurial business plans to emotionally expressive creative texts), we will prepare them with the tools they will need to be intelligently, usefully critical thinkers about the the wide range of texts (commercial, political, scientific, ethical) they encounter in the outside world.

We can’t do that if students don’t have screentime on the latest tools, and we can’t do that if we don’t carefully study what the new screens are doing to our culture.