When Lisa's son was asked to bring a MacBook Air to his previous school she noticed a decline in his learning and behaviour. Now, in a largely tech-free school, she says her son is learning invaluable skills and argues that limiting tech is "not disadvantaging our kids."
Preview above: Ben explains the issues he had at his tech-focused school. Watch the full episode on SBS On Demand.
With their pens, pencils and notebooks, my school-aged children are something of a rarity. Aged five, seven and 13, they’re unusual in that they don’t have any technology in their school bags, unless you count a scientific calculator and a Beyblade, and I don’t.
My children go to schools (one private, one public) that aren’t reliant on technology.
The perception, of course, is that tech-free schools are old-fashioned, refusing to move with the times. The reality is that they’re anything but. The perception is that I am a luddite, who pens hand-written missives with a quill and parchment. Surprisingly enough, I’m not.
My eldest son went to a public primary school that introduced MacBooks for students in Year 4. Each child aged eight and nine was required to own a piece of technology worth over $1,500 and carry it to and from school each day.
The teachers, principal and education board – if you asked them, and I did, over and over – said that MacBooks didn’t detract from traditional learning methods, they enhanced them. For some families, this was fine and dandy. Some kids blossomed with the introduction of MacBooks into their everyday learning. Mine didn’t. Mine dropped his MacBook, left it on the oval in a thunderstorm and eventually lost it.
My son's learning suffered. His communication skills suffered. His handwriting suffered. The MacBooks were used for most lessons. As engaging learning techniques go, students doing maths via YouTube tutorials is dire stuff.
After getting nowhere with the school when I raised my concerns, I ended up changing schools, choosing one that didn’t require the students to own technology. It still doesn’t.
My two youngest children go to the same public primary school now and it makes me happy beyond reason to see them getting their pen licences and drawing with chalk on the bitumen. That’s not to say they aren’t tech savvy – the school uses a shared bank of computers and iPads – but they aren’t overly reliant upon it. They’ve got the perfect balance of traditional learning methods with the tech skills that they’ll need as they grow up.
My eldest son, meanwhile, is at an incredible private high school that similarly doesn’t require parents to buy technology for the kids. Again, that doesn’t mean they’re not learning the necessary tech skills – they are, and more. But, again, it’s balanced with a sensible approach to traditional learning methods. At the very least, this means that the high-school students aren’t distracted by phones, iPads or computers in the classroom, buzzing in their pockets and pencil cases. I mean, can you imagine? As a grown-up with a proper job, I still get distracted by my phone if it’s sitting on my desk at work, pinging up Facebook notifications in my peripheral vision. It’s hardly fair to expect a 13-year-old to restrain from checking Instagram during double maths, is it?
More than that, without the distraction of tech in the classroom, the kids can better engage with the teacher. They can make eye contact. They can answer questions. They can take handwritten notes. All the good stuff! This is the type of learning that my kids respond to.
By limiting tech in schools, we’re not disadvantaging our kids. Our kids will still be super-tech-nerds with ALL the skills to edit a video in iMovie and retrieve birthday photos from iCloud. Well, mine can, anyway (thank goodness).
Insight wants to hear from you. If you have a personal story to share – especially on a newsworthy issue – we can help you craft a compelling first-person article like the one you’ve just read. Pitch an idea or send a piece you’ve already written to firstname.lastname@example.org