Wednesday, January 25, 2012

iPhones and the challenge at hand...

Math facts box for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grades
This article in the New York Times illustrates the challenge involved in restoring American manufacturing. Apple, America and the Squeezed Middle Class. The article questions whether or not the US will ever be able to compete successfully against China in the making of consumer electronics. Perhaps not. And perhaps never. But should we try to maintain our creative edge?

Nails bend. Getting them straight is not just a matter of luck.
I got a call yesterday from an editor at American TV news program, ABC Nightline, researching a story on the use of iPhones, iPads and similar devices by by toddlers. The editor was wanting someplace to go to get a clearer sense of why despite the obvious attraction of leaving your child occupied and entertained by these devices, they are not the best developmental tools for our children's growth. The cute photos showing children engaged with these devices tells an enchanting and deceptive tale of engagement. The statistics and correlations of that engagement... a wide range of undesirable symptoms in those children tells a more frightening tale. If you want more information do a bit of research on your own either in this blog or on google. Use the search term "screen time" in this blog (box at top left), or "screen time and kids" on google. We watch kids manipulating the devices and think, "Isn't she smart?" when the intelligence is really only built into the box and what we should be noticing is how the device so effectively distracts the child from real life, and from engagement in it.

Lev Grossman, writer for Time Magazine had called the woman who told him of the direct harm to his child, "Suzie Joykiller." She had shattered his illusions of all the wonderful things he hoped technology was doing for his child. What about hand and eye coordination? These high tech parents ask. Try scissors.

Progressive education really means growth from within the child toward the embrace of the world at large and all the learning available within that expanding, progressive relationship. It begins with the family, proceeds from the school, through the community and through the culture. It explains why children in the primary grades used to visit their local fire stations. It wasn't just for fun but to expand the child's conception of self.

Otto Salomon, one of the primary co-founders of Educational Sloyd described progressive education in his prescription, "Start with the interests of the child, move from the known to the unknown, from the easy to the more difficult, from the simple to the complex and from the concrete to the abstract." Anyone watching a toddler with an iPhone will see that they are interested in it. The easy manipulation of images on the iPhone screen can be addictive and for some has become a thing better known than the real world that surrounds them. You can become lost in it, distracted by it. But it all misses being developmental on two fronts. It is not concrete, does not lead from the concrete to the abstract, but rather begins in abstraction and it does not lead from the easy to the more difficult except in the least concrete of terms. It fosters far too little responsive, creative engagement in either family or community and no actual creativity, that William James had referred to as "correlative expression."

Ed Tenner had written a piece for the New York Times, telling that laptops are not laps, and that children need the latter. I referred the editor from Nightline to friends at the Alliance for Childhood. If we want our children to be creative, leading our future in ways that restore success to our nation, progressive education, including such things as play with blocks, would be a good way to begin.

Today the first, 2nd and 3rd grade students at Clear Spring School used saws and hammers, real wood and nails to make desk accessories to hold a pencil, scissors and their math facts. It will make their study more interesting and help them to better organize their desks. The prototype is shown in the photo above. I have fun designing projects that build step by step on their skills, and seeing their pride in their finished work.

Make, fix and create...

No comments:

Post a Comment