Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thoughts on Technology

I think I have read the first 228 pages of The Well-Trained Mind (the section focusing on the Grammar years) 15 times now, and lately Chapter 10 "Electronic Teachers: Using Computers and Videos" keeps drawing me back.

The premise of the chapter is that the grammar years are a crucial time of brain development, especially in verbal areas; the connections and pathways made in these early years will be used for the remainder of a child's life. Reading and writing depend on the left-hemisphere while TV and similar technology depend more on the right-hemisphere. We want to engage our children in activities that will develop the ability to think great thoughts as they grow older and since TV, videos and software promote passive learning, these forms of entertainment should be greatly limited in the younger years.

Reading is mentally active.
Watching a video is mentally passive.

Writing is labor-intensive.

Clicking icons is effortless.
All children prefer ease to effort. It seems reasonable to us to limit their
exposure to the easier way until the harder way has been mastered
.
- The Well-Trained Mind, p 200 - 201

If you are new to my blog, my oldest son Thatcher is ADHD...very ADHD. His love affair with tv began as a toddler watching Baby Einstein videos and continued until recently when we cut all tv out of his day for one month. While watching TV he is calm and completely enraptured, but the moment the TV (or computer, Leapster, etc.) is turned off we just about have to peel him off the ceiling. The sustained visual stimulation is just too much for his brain to synthesize. We have added the tiniest bit of TV/technology back into his day but it is severely limited.

Honestly, we would have done this even without the issues of ADHD. My boys were just too addicted to TV ; they would sit on the couch all day if allowed. Now they are out playing on the swingset, building towers and roads with their blocks, arranging battles with their action figures and interacting with each other (although too often not in the kind, helpful way I desire - but that's another post!). It was so hard those first few weeks but I would do it again for the benefits gained.

Well, to the true point of my post: what does all this mean for our family and schooling future? I think for me it is simply that we will only use TV /video/computers when absolutely necessary -when they provide something we can't get any other way.

  • We have a subscription to United Streaming for next year and will use the elementary Spanish video series. I have a minor in Spanish so I could definitely teach it myself. However, I also have a one and a two year old to care for during the day while schooling Thatcher. He works veeerrryyyy slowly so I needed to give up teaching something in order for my little ones to have any "Mommy-time". In this case, technology will allow me much needed time with Haddon and Beckett.
  • We will also be using the science and history videos on United Streaming. I agree with Susan Wise-Bauer when she says that some things like "lava flowing down the side of a mountain have to be seen to be believed." These videos will take Thatcher places he could never travel himself (ancient Rome, inside the human body, to the depths of the oceans, floating up the Nile River, et al) or at least not this year!
  • Lastly we will use some of the Art Tango videos, also on United Streaming. The use of technology here will definitely fit my criteria because I cannot draw stick figures (truly) so these videos will provide something I cannot - a qualified art teacher! We will also be using Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, and I will learning right along side him.
I desire to be extremely intentional about not letting technology be a major part of our school or our lives in general (except for watching the Houston Astros) but in some cases it is well worth it!

1 comment:

Kirsten Turner said...

My six year old is also adhd and started life out watching baby einstein. Within the past 6 months we also cut out dairy, started using omega 3's, and 30 minutes of tv a week. We are also joining the homeschool bandwagon soon.