Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Real tools vs. screen time and ADHD

It seems that we are learning a few things about digital technology and one is that it has a way of diminishing the child's capacity to pay attention. And so as children are exposed at earlier and earlier ages to iPhones and iPads and other forms of non-productive technologies, greater diagnosis of ADHD and the prescription and manufacture of pharmaceutical products for controlling children's behavior in school is assured.

According to research, published in Pediatrics, "Television and Video Game Exposure and the Development of Attention Problems"
"Results: Exposure to television and video games was associated with greater attention problems. The association of television and video games to attention problems in the middle childhood sample remained significant when earlier attention problems and gender were statistically controlled. The associations of screen media and attention problems were similar across media type (television or video games) and age (middle childhood or late adolescent/early adult)."
Yesterday in the school wood shop, I divided my first grade students into two groups to be able to give each student greater individualized attention at the beginning of the school year. One student from each group told me, "I wish we could have wood shop every day."

As my students were sawing to the line, using coping saws to make wooden feathers, you could see both the wandering of attention allowing the saw to wander off line, and the exercise of  the child's will to bring attention (and the saw cut) back in line. The unfortunate idea in education is that children either have attentive capacity or they do not. And if they lack it for some reason, it is to be restored through drug therapy rather than training and practice. The truth is that they either have interest and practiced skill of attention or are deficient in one or unpracticed in the other. Ability to pay attention can be remedied by the use of tools that interest the child and provide incentive for their practice in the application of attention doing real things. The creation of useful beauty comes to mind

One writer for Time Magazine had tried to convince  an expert in child development that he was giving his daughter certain advantages by giving her a laptop at age two. He called the expert Susie Joykiller when she informed him that his daughter could get the same advantages from a pair of scissors.

Draw a line and cut to it, and you will have joyfully exercised your powers of attention. That corralling student attention in school has become difficult in American schooling should come as no surprise. It will no doubt get worse as tools of traditional childhood creativity are exchanged for tools that have only digital non-creative capacities.

Make, fix and create...

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