Sunday, January 31, 2010

Are digital technologies changing how our kids learn?

I recently had a conversation with an English professor about the advent of new technology changing the way kids are learning basic skills. Her example was actually quite telling.

She talked to a mother in her community that is a very active, engaged parent. The mother explained to the English professor that her daughter, who was six-years-old, decided she no longer wanted to read books. The child was a very good reader, but only wanted to read books at or below her first grade reading level. She did not want to push beyond that level and begin reading more difficult material. The mother said the child became would only show any excitement about reading when the mother would read to her. Aside from that, the child could care less about reading.

The English professor asked the mother if she or her husband read books on their own, regardless of whether it was reading to their child or not. It turned out that the mother and father didn't read books for their own enjoyment. The mother would read news online and the father would read books through a Kindle. The English Professor had an interesting and highly plausible theory that if the parents read books themselves, the child would likely be more excited to read books as a result.

The English professor was drawing on the basic tenants of modeling. Children learn behaviors by observing and consequently modeling the people around them. In other words, "monkey see monkey do."

One question that arises from this example is whether we as a society think it is important for children to learn the way we did, by reading books and doing math by hand, or if we are comfortable adopting new teaching methods.

If we aren't comfortable adapting our teaching methods, should we be more conscious of our own behaviors around our children? Does our use of these digital technologies need to be minimized when teaching our children?


Jeff on February 2, 2010 at 2:39 PM said...

Teachers have to teach for two purposes: 1) To prepare students for the world as it is, and 2) Prepare students for the world that will be.

Yes, teaching methods are always being adapted, though more slowly than is preferable.

An English professor, huh?

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Managing Supervisor, Fleishman-Hillard

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