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Education Technology - The Learning Paradox

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Recent evidence indicates that electromagnetic radiation emitted from electrical devices such as computers, wireless internet, and cell phones is hazardous to human mental and physical health. As children's bodies undergo rapid rates of development, their risk of harm is great.  Without knowledge or guidelines for long term student safety, elementary schools have invested heavily in use of technology as a primary learning tool. Precautionary steps must now be taken to reduce or even eliminate the use of technologies in school based settings to ensure safe and sustainable environments for young children. This article will detail up to date research regarding the harmful effects of radiation on the developing child, and profile areas of concern facing elementary school staff and administration. A “System of Solutions” will be offered to parents, schools and therapists to optimize child health and academic performance for children.

Young girl at computer

A common myth is that children need to be proficient in the use of technology to be successful both academically and vocationally. Yet, validation for use of educational technology in an elementary setting is largely unproven and untested, with long term efficacy studies non-existent. Potential cost and time benefits of using technology as a teaching tool is attractive, as is the allure of the entertainment factor. But, research is increasingly revealing that the costs to human physical and mental health do not outweigh any perceived benefits. Technology overuse has been shown to be causally linked to developmental delay, obesity, anxiety, depression, asocial behavior, aggression, inattention and poor academic performance.


Dr. Gary Small, a neurophysicist found through use of PET imaging, that technology use of over 5 hours per day in children results in the brain “pruning” neuronal tracks to the frontal lobes, which are primarily known for executive function and impulse control. With children now using an average 7.5 hours per day of entertainment technology, apparently “use it or lose it” and “you are what you do” apply to child brain development. Use of high-speed technology doesn't require higher level brain function, and the result is that to achieve efficiency, the brain eliminates tracks it doesn't use. While a young child might at first glance appear to be advancing their academic skills with early technology use, the fact is that they are also cutting off their ability to pay attention and learn. The use of education technology is really a “learning paradox” as the more schools invest in technology, in terms of brain development, the lower are the returns on their investment.


This learning paradox is more complex when we consider the secondary effects of education technology on children’s ability to perform academically. The prevalent “technology illusion”( e.g., that computers will actually replace teachers) has resulted in whole school districts turning away from tried and true methods of achieving literacy and knowledge. Printing and cursive instruction is now a paltry 10 minutes per day, if at all. We've known for years that children who cannot print perform lower in all subjects, as it takes them much longer to produce letters and numbers on math, spelling and any printed output. When children are slow printers, they often don't have letter recognition which effects reading speed. Half of our grade eight students now do not have job entry literacy, and one in three students will not graduate from high school.


Removing the human element from teaching and learning is resulting in a host of problems the education system is just beginning to detect, much less understand enough to determine methods of intervention. Child asocial behavior and aggression is at an all-time high, and creating profound classroom management challenges. The results are increased use of psychotropic medication, restraints and seclusion rooms, all of which are highly disputed and proven to be detrimental to child physical and mental health. Other secondary effects of the “technology illusion” are that children aren't getting the movement and green space they need for optimal attention states needed to enhance learning.


It is now time to look forward and take immediate measure to ensure safe learning environments and teaching methods for our children. Removing wireless internet from schools is a start, and looking toward enhancing teaching methods that don’t employ technology is imperative if we are to create sustainable futures for our children.

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Cris Rowan is a pediatric occupational therapist passionate about changing the ways in which children use technology. Cris is author of "Virtual Child - The terrifying truth about what technology is doing to children" and is CEO of Zone'in Programs Inc. offering programs, workshops, training and consultation to enhance child learning and development.
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Guest Friday, 22 February 2019