Technology in education: Good news or bad news?

Technology can be wonderful tools, but there are downsides to introducing it to kids' lives too early. The industry is pushing it for profit, and parents don't want their kid to be the only one who doesn't have it. Kids don't want to be either. But the industry is working us like a drug dealer works his users. 

There's no question that people can become addicted to technology, and what it can do for them, for the same reason people become addicted to tobacco, alcohol or drugs - it gives people relief in many ways, and a "high" of sorts that can't be matched by everyday life. 

Some concerns I have about increasing the amount of technology used in schools, at earlier ages: 

1) The bar for stimulation has been raised so high that little about daily life gets a rise out of kids. This negatively affects their willingness to engage in activities, and to stay on task. We hear complaints about being bored all the time. As teachers, we can't keep up with this rising bar, unless we buy products from industry. Try getting some kids to go for a hike in nature. 

People develop a tolerance for stimulation, just like they do drugs. It takes an increasing amount to give them the satisfaction much less once gave them. Virtual reality "jades" our real life experiences, decreasing the likelihood that normal experiences will be satisfying. It also encourages us to seek gratification outside ourselves. That’s a precursor for multiple problems. 

2) Increasing convenience, comfort and pleasure makes people less tolerant of inconvenience, discomfort and unpleasantness that is part of life. This makes people more demanding. They are encouraged to be by those profiting from products. This makes people more likely to "awfulize" or to tell themselves they "can't stand" something. These types of thinking are responsible for people generating unnecessary and unhelpful emotion in their lives, and to behave in ways that aren't good for them. 

It creates a mental-emotional state called LFT, or Low Frustration Tolerance. LFT erodes the patience and perseverance, or delayed gratification necessary for discovery, learning, and the repetition and rehearsal necessary to become proficient at many things. 

Consider what's happened as more devices for physical labor became "powered". People became intolerant of physical effort and exertion. I’ve never liked when parents give children battery powered cars instead of bicycles to ride. Physical labor saving devices make us less tolerant of physical labor. Will mental labor saving devices make kids less tolerant for thinking things through – for using their brains? 

3) Piaget talked about a "concrete operations" phase in cognitive development. Kids are increasingly being denied that experience. It started with toys that did everything for them and made using imagination unnecessary. Now people give I-pads to kindergarteners. There's talk of not teaching handwriting anymore. 

All good news for the purveyors of technology, but will it be good for kids. We often get so focused on the benefits and novelty that we miss the downsides. Many of our most pressing problems, like climate change, are the result of doing just that in the past. We became so enamored with cars and the comfort and convenience from burning fossil fuels that we never saw it coming. 

By incorporating more technology into education, aren’t we contributing to our own demise as a profession? It won’t be long before people start asking “Why do we need teachers in classrooms anymore? Or even classrooms and schools?” 

Technology is really a back door in many ways to privatization of education, and a highly profitable one at that. Like drug users, our whole lives start to revolve around using technology, and we believe we can’t live without it anymore. That makes the drug dealer very wealthy, especially when the overhead of production is so low due to automation (technology).