Do kids learn more without computers?
The Week, October 31, 2011
This may be the era of wired classrooms, but not everyone is convinced computers help kids learn. Many Silicon Valley parents, who work for top tech companies such as Google and Apple, are sending their children to pricey Waldorf schools where classrooms are devoid of technology, The New York Times reported recently. The century-old Waldorf philosophy advocates learning through physical activity and creativity. Students might acquire problem-solving skills through knitting, or learn fractions by dividing up a cake. Do kids really learn better without high-tech gadgetry?
This philosophy is good for kids and parents: These schools “are on to something,” says Amy Windsor at Babble. When I think back to my tech-free childhood, I can’t help but idealize it and think that it’d be good for my kids to have the same imagination-stirring, gadget-free experience, at least until their teen years. And if parents put down their gadgets some too, this philosophy could be “a boon to the whole family.”
And there’s some science to it: An increasing stack of scientific studies shows that “computers inhibit learning rather than help,” says Amy Graff at the San Francisco Chronicle. Researchers have found that educational software doesn’t help children retain information or learn to read any better than old-school methods. Some scientists have even found that too much computer time is bad for kids’ brains, so it might be best to hold off on the gadgets until after elementary school.
But technology isn’t all bad: There is “a real danger in letting our children rely too much on technology and not get out and learn in the dirt of the real world,” says Julie Ryan Evans at The Stir, but you don’t want kids to fall behind their peers in this tech-centric world. I’ve also witnessed how much fun my kids have, and how much they learn, with educational apps and games, and anything that “engages and encourages children to love learning is a good thing in my book.”