Education Technology And The Yound Child: Three Reasons Why Parents Should Opt Out

We live in a world where technology will continue to take us to new places. From driverless cars to optical computers there is no telling what the world will look like in 20 years, thanks to the endless drive for innovation, efficiency, and profits.  Some of us are excited about the possibilities while others fear the unknown, and if you are like me you feel a bit of both.  Yes, I want technology that makes my work easier, but I do believe there are some things we just do not to spend time and energy creating.

Well, we do not have to wait much longer to learn how education technology will impact schools and classrooms.  After the federal government passed the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA) late last year, companies eagerly began pushing education technology to the states that are now given more control over curriculum and testing. Competency-based education (CBE) and personalized learning became the technology buzz words as companies promise to improve education through self-directed learning or student-centered learning. Sounds great, right? I mean who does not want student-centered learning. But these companies could not make a profit on student-centered learning unless it came packaged in a variety of education technologies.  What they fail to mention is that hidden between student-centered and learning is technology. From computers, to apps and software, it is the technology these companies are marketing.

That still might not sound too bad. I mean, as adults, most of us spend our working hours on computers and keep the most comprehensive piece of technology in our pocket.  Shouldn’t our children get ahead of the technology future by early exposure in schools? If exposure was the only result, I would agree. However, education technology is not about exposing your child to new technology. It’s about replacing your child’s educational experience from a human-based interactive setting to a complete virtual experience.  If that is the future that education technology has to offer, then I, for one, want no part of it. Humans are social creatures and we thrive from interaction with others and active learning with our head, hands, and heart. No computer program can provide students with a high-quality education. In fact, the overuse of education technology can be harmful to the development of young children.  Below are three reasons why parents should opt out of education technology:

1.     Education technology can have negative effects on your child’s emotional/social, physical, language, and cognitive development 

There are a variety of views on how children learn, based on the different theories gathered from research. Some theories are based on the fact that children construct knowledge as they engage with new materials and encounter new experiences. Other theories focus on the social interaction that students get with teachers and peers as the basis for their development.  Another theory highlights the interactions children have with their environment that influence their personality.  And another theory examines whether a person has their basic needs met, such as food, safety, and water and feel loved and belonging, as paramount to whether they can learn. What all these theories have in common is that children learn best when they have active experiences with adults, peers, and their environment that provide them with engaging opportunities to learn. Education technology that have a child sitting in front of computer for hours at a time removes all of the necessities for a quality educational experience.

2.    Education technology has not been proven to be an effective means of educating children and will have adverse effects on schools and teachers.

Teachers have been using technology in the classroom for a long time. I remember having a computer station for my kindergarten students to use during choice time.  Today, many classrooms have smart boards and many teachers use apps such as Class Dojo to support instruction and classroom management. The key word is support. Education technology should support teachers and children. However, the future of education technology is not to support but to replace. And how do we know that education technology can provide better outcomes for students in the short and long term? We don’t. We simply do not have enough longitudinal studies that support turning education into a virtual experience.  And until we do, we should not allow these companies to use our children as guinea pigs.  I highly recommend reading The Education of Sam Sanders  by T. S. Poetter which provides a fictional view of the future if education technology is allowed to run rampant over public education.

3.    Education technology will allow for nonstop collection of your child’s private information through data mining.

Ever search for something on Google and then see the same thing advertised next time you log into Facebook? Obviously, Google is selling your information to Facebook or the advertiser so they can follow you wherever you go online, constantly marketing their products. Now imagine this happening to your child all day while they sit at a computer, engaging in “personalized learning”. Not only will the technology record every stroke your child makes, it will compile that personal data so that the companies can better market their product to your child.  Additionally, the education technology companies will get all of our child’s personal information from the school without asking for your permission first. Do we really want companies marketing to young children while they are supposed to be learning?

Your child’s future should not be left in the hands of for profit corporations. Education is a vital human right not a commodity to be siphoned off to the highest bidder.  Technology should enhance our lives not control them.  If you are concerned about the impact that education technology will have on your school, you should submit your opt-out letter that includes restrictions to screen time and data mining. Together we can protect the right of all children for a high-quality education.

Click here for a sample letter and more information on the dangers of education technology from Parents Across America.