For centuries, classrooms have relied on the Socratic method of teaching, engaging students in verbal discussions and eliciting questions, answers and analysis. This was the way that I learned and I remember very little computer time. This is also the way that my children learn today in their schools, albeit with more time spent on a computer. They go to the computer lab 2 to 3 times per week and use educational software, apps and programs (for of course, computer labs are not limited to computers. There are iPads. In a related story, my 11 year old son asked me at age 4 "when you were little, were there telephones or only email?"). After this segmented block of time, they are brought into the classroom, whether it be to dissect a frog, to have language arts discussions about the book "The Giver" or to obtain their Q&A packet for the nature trail they will be taking at the nearby creek conservancy.
Unknown parts to many, local nature trails, with adequate chaperoning and tick protection, engage the senses firsthand and are terrific enhancements to the science curriculum. Virtual programs aim to replicate the experience and I am all for that in the cold weather, but our children definitely need to be moving, experiencing and seeing the real thing. It is all too common for kids to own iPods, iPads and computers at home and for parents (like myself) to complain that we need to get the kids outside, riding bikes..Hell, .I'll take reading on the porch! My kids prefer to be indoors playing a Spiderman game on the iPod. My 5 year old twins had impressive dexterity when it came to electronic devices before the age of 2. However, I take much greater pride in how they correctly hold the pencil and have mastered just the amount of pressure it takes for proper (age-appropriate) penmanship. While my mother thinks that it is a little sad that there are fewer toys in the Kindergarten classroom today, I appreciate that Kindergarten is the new first grade and that my kids are essentially getting two years to adequately master reading and early math. They are also having fun with board games - designed by the teacher and educational stores - that encourage socialization and cooperation. The Kindergarten recently went on an educational treasure hunt that had them searching for clues around the school and in the yard.
God only knows how much time my four children (ages 11, 8 and twins of age 5) spend using technology (I've busted my two eldest under the covers with iPods late at night. I've hid the devices numerous times and maintained no-technology periods, but never for as long as I would like. I'm not perfect by a long shot, but I'm trying in this regard!), but I am grateful that the overabundance of it is not in the classroom. Kids are so plugged in today that many parents feel a huge sigh of relief sending them to school, knowing that they won't be glued to a screen, that they won't have to put up a fight with much resistance and protests. Then, there are the many schools that pride themselves on how high tech-driven they are. There are schools cutting costs on hiring administration by relying on generous technology grants and donations. A really great teacher can not be replaced by a computer. A genuine smile with cheeks, teeth and evident human approval is no substitute for a digitized emoticon.
Daring finance executives, our "one percent" with incomes of 2-3 million dollars per year, have tried to run certain private schools from the Board of Directors as their helm, but experienced teachers are the ones who need to decide how much and how little technology their classrooms will require. They are the ones who have come to know how kids learn and very often, the business people who sit on boards do not possess educational experience. At the end of the day though, a large consideration in what school you choose for your children depends on how much technology you want in the school. The appropriate balance for me accounts for physical activity time, teacher to student time, working in small groups with other kids (and I'm not referring to it being around a computer) with allotted time for the computer lab. My kids excitedly talk about that time as if it is a treat, a special dessert. "We went to the computer lab today. We worked with iPads!" They look forward to that time each week but they also look forward to recess (naturally!), the science fair where they present very hands on replicas of the solar system or a board that shows how electricity works or the snazziest of dioramas that they take great pride in having built. They create, they use their hands, they employ tools (some of them can even sew, crazy enough! My son's social studies teacher taught the kids how to last year as it tied into the curriculum about the first American settlers). As a bonus, because they receive just the right amount of technology time each week, they can do something I could not at their ages: They can type.