February 7, 2017
The Great Debate:

Little Learners on the Screen; Yay or Nay?

I had a major epiphany the other night when I went out to eat with a few members of my family for my birthday.  My son had just turned 9 months old.  He is incredible.  the light of my life.  But wow, the older he gets, what a turd.  It’s annoying.  Can I say that?  He wants to be held.  He wants to crawl.  He wants what is on the table, hot baskets of chips, knives, makes no difference to him! Maybe “major epiphany” is a strong phrase for the conclusion I came to, but I found myself wishing, yes hopelessly fantasizing about the day where I will be able to hand this little brain my cell phone so that I can maybe sit back, relax, and sip my margarita in peace.

Now before the Mom Radicals and anti-screen-time hordes of moms hit the defense and try to knock me off, hear me out.  There is a healthy balance of screen time to be found.   This si the teacher in me speaking as much as it is the exhausted, margarita-craving mother of the brutish infant mentioned earlier.  I am a secondary education teacher, however I work a lot with elementary teachers and hear their concerns about screen time. They are valid concerns, however, screen time is not rotting our students’ brains and giving students technology for learning will not halt the development of social skills. This article, Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education addresses the issue of screen time for our littles and manages to back me up a little. It is appropriate but there is a balance to be found. I think there are three important questions to ask when considering whether small students should be on devices.

 1. Is it appropriate?

Young learners should interact with age appropriate apps and websites and not only that,    

what they are learning should reinforce what they are learning in the real world. If a young 

learner is interested in monkeys, if there is a real life monkey available to learn from, is that 

not better than an animated monkey?  One cannot learn EVERYTHING from the Internet 

(although some of my college term papers may argue the opposite.)

             2. Is it worthwhile?

Do not create passive learners by allowing students to mindlessly tap away   

on the “educational” apps. Again, they should be interacting with content. (I

mean, if I KNOW that my preschooler is really engaged in learning on my 

mobile device, how much better is my margarita going to taste?)

             3. Does it boost student learning?

There is a lot of good content out there that will empower young learners. Here’s the deal, 

these little learners are going to be on devices anyway. It’s practically in their blood. We 

should be introducing them to technology that they can make connections with, that will 

grow with them, that will allow them to cultivate connections.

Of course, we must recognize that there is a balance. We should unplug and often. But, let’s not miss out on the benefits (both in terms of learning and margaritas) that are guaranteed to come with the integration of appropriate, worthwhile, and knowledge boosting technology. 

Looking for just this? Try https://www.elearningflashcards.com/ with your littles!

From the mind of Pamela O’Neil