A digital immigrant looks askance.by Marc Severson on Mar. 25, 2012, under Education
I have several ADHD children in my room. One has had a hard time this second semester. He was no really noticeable earlier in the year, all that I observed was that he tended to need to get up and sit back down more often than others students. This is not something that bothers me much as I encourage movement in my class. But then just before the Winter Break he seemed to change radically, almost overnight. He became very talkative, fidgety and worst of all seemed to be unable to focus for more that a matter of minutes. Often I would find him lying on the floor under his desk or wandering aimlessly around the room. His parents got his meds reviewed and we tried again with new medication.
It helped, sometimes, but not always. Somedays he just couldn’t get it together, doing erratic things, talking out of turn, and generally making a nuisance of himself in class. Mom and I spoke almost daily but she was as perplexed as I was.
Last Friday was one of those days. He talked all day, crawled on the floor, picked up things that belonged to other children and broke pencils and crayons for no other reason than he could. I tried the ultimate threat. I warned him that I was concerned about taking him on our upcoming field trip if he couldn’t control himself. Actually I am concerned because we are following up on an insect unit and we are visiting a live butterfly exhibit and i can just imagine him damaging one of the butterflies.
On Fridays we have Friday Free-Time, a chance for my students to choose anything in the room, including some games or computers. This child often chooses the computer but I only have two in my room and so often he has to wait his turn. On this day one of my other students had brought a GameBoy for Sharing time and he asked if he could let others play with it during Free Time. I said as long as he set up a rotation so various people got a turn it was fine. He quickly designated everyone who wanted a turn and gave them 10 minutes each. I was impressed with his efficiency but then he is one of my best students.
It just so happened that the boy who had been so out of control all day had the third turn and I watched to see what would happen. From the moment he sat down he was totally focused on his game. He sat for ten minutes and heard nothing else or saw nothing else but efficiently manipulated the controls to play the game.
And here is my concern. This boy had not shown two minutes of consistent, quiet behavior all day and he takes hold of this little yellow box with it’s tiny screen and suddenly he’s Dr. Iron Focus.
A recent article by William Oehikers and Cindy DiDonato (1) discusses technological advances in education. The ask whether the increase in the use of tools like iBooks and other portable devices will improve education or be just another distraction.
My solution is obvious. I know I could put this boy on a computer all day and he would not bother a soul, but what would he be learning and would that type of learning be effective for his growth as an individual? My solution does not address the problem.
The authors of the article mention project based learning as a possible alternative to more traditional modes of teaching. This would require a radical rethinking of the role of a teacher and also a certain leap of faith that this is a viable solution and will help mitigate against the adverse effects of the burgeoning growth of technology that seems, to an old analog dog like me, inevitable.