Back Away From The Computer

Remember when our good friends on the Board of the El Paso Independent School District were selling us that $668 million in bonds? One of their big selling points was that they were going to get computers into the hands of every high school student in the district.

Maybe that’s not such a good idea. From the New York Times:

A wariness that has been slowly brewing is turning into a regionwide consensus: The benefits of screens as a learning tool are overblown, and the risks for addiction and stunting development seem high. The debate in Silicon Valley now is about how much exposure to phones is O.K.

“Doing no screen time is almost easier than doing a little,” said Kristin Stecher, a former social computing researcher married to a Facebook engineer. “If my kids do get it at all, they just want it more.”

One might think that our elected officials would be right every once in a while, just by accident.

But I guess not.


  1. It is not always simply about computers. As I wrote in the El Paso Herald-Post back in April:

    “Those studies are short-sighted at best. Pencils, in and by themselves, make no difference academically. Air conditioning makes little or no difference academically. Indeed, even textbooks make little or no difference BY THEMSELVES. But the right tools combined with excellent teaching makes a world of difference, especially for our students that have to do without, due to circumstances beyond their control.
    Our students, no matter their socio-economic status, are going to be living in a world of more technology, not less. They will be living in a world where artificial intelligence controlled devices will change the world in almost every area.
    To deny students access to at least the most fundamental technology, and that means a basic mobile device like a laptop, is the equivalent of denying them textbooks and pencils. It is educational malpractice.”

    1. Gee, Mr. Holt, it seems you didn’t read the New York Times article. I’m sure that the children of Silicon Valley execs (and Bill and Melinda Gates) get the best teachers in the world. Yet, those same people, who are steeped in technology, believe that delaying the introduction of screen time is critical to a child’s development. But I guess that doesn’t conform to your preconceived notion.

      Thanks for reading. Or not reading.

      1. I am not sure why the adversarial tone of your reply, but what the heck, I will bite:

        Actually, this “news” is not news. There have been many articles that are similar over the years. The British love to publish articles like that and have been doing so for years. They hate education technology. ??Before classroom 1:1 laptops and iPads, the “its going to ruin your life” articles were about the dangers of cell phones (remember we were all going to get brain tumors?). Before that, televisions (we were all going to go blind). Before that, land phones and radios (we were all going to go deaf). The arguments have not changed, only the type of technology that is picked on.

        I have said it before and will not change my tune: It is not the tool, but how the tool is used. Technology is not inherently good or bad, it is the ABUSE or incorrect use of technology that is bad.
        I would not want my children spending all of their time reading books either, or spending 8 hours a day practicing the violin or 10 hours playing basketball. Too much of ANYTHING is bad. Tech, reading, exercising. Moderation in all things.

        Melinda Gates said “Still, as a mother who wants to make sure her children are safe and happy, I worry. And I think back to how I might have done things differently. Parents should decide for themselves what works for their family, but I probably would have waited longer before putting a computer in my children’s pockets. Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning how to be kind, coping with feelings of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control. It’s more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it.”

        Notice she was worried about how her kids were able to emotionally navigate SOCIAL MEDIA, not all technology. And as a matter of fact, the Gates’ allowed their children to have smartphones when they turned 14. In schools there is not a lot of social media use that is not moderated by teachers. ?
        It is all about the appropriate use of technology. Is watching cats play the piano, or panda cubs fall asleep an appropriate use of technology for kids? Probably not. Is learning how to solve a quadratic equation on Khan Academy appropriate? Probably yes. Is spending hours watching the latest music videos on YouTube appropriate? Probably not. But how about watching the Smithsonian Channel or the Nat Geo channel or the NASA Channel? The Internet is a giant buffet of knowledge. We as adults must steer our children to the meat and vegetables, and away from the desserts. Too many parents are not checking on their kids.

        Laptops or tablets are learning tools, just like textbooks, or pencils. If students go home and play video games on their TVs or text for hours on their smart phones, that hardly is the school’s fault nor the laptop’s. That is a family issue.

        Jobs and Gates limited the amount of screen time but did not forbid it. Actually, any good parent should do that. Instead of playing video games for 5 hours a night, limit it to 1 hour. That is what the tech billionaires are saying. They are not saying “do not use technology.” They are saying “use technology wisely.” They are not displaying an abhorrence of technology, they are displaying good parenting skills.

        1. Right, Mr. Holt. Exactly.

          But do most people use the internet to solve quadratic equations? Or as a time sink?

          How closely is EPISD monitoring that computer use? Seems like checking the browser history of all those kids must take some manpower.

          Of course, as you pointed out, no technology is a substitute for a good teacher. But I feel like that’s what the EPISD was offering us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *