Low-down on high-tech in schools

13th January 2012 at 00:00

Graham Brown-Martin is right - there's no place for technophobia in a 21st-century education system ("Technophobia has no place in education," 6 January). The great challenge confronting schools at the moment is to optimise the use of ICT for learning, both in school and at home.

But there's no place for unquestioning technophilia either. Evidence shows that the misuse of technology can inhibit children's capacity to learn - and the younger they are, the more damage it can do. If young children spend much of their time interacting with technology rather than the real world and real people, the chances are they'll be hooked into a sedentary, screen-based lifestyle predicated on entertainment rather than education.

We know that too much early screen-gazing affects physical, social and linguistic development. We also know that children who arrive at primary school with poor language skills and difficulties in controlling their behaviour and focusing attention have problems learning the three Rs. In this case, spending hours each day gazing at an interactive whiteboard is unlikely to improve the situation. Indeed, by the time they reach secondary school, they're likely to be so disaffected with the whole business that no amount of brilliant technology will retrieve them.

All the indications are that a rising number of children - especially from disadvantaged backgrounds - are being exposed to too much ICT, too soon, and commercial forces are pressing more and more technological products on parents, early years practitioners and primary staff. In deciding how best to make use of technology as an educational tool, the first stage is to consider children's developmental needs.

Sue Palmer, Literacy specialist and author of Toxic Childhood, Edinburgh.

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