E-gadgets distract from literacy, critical thinking

E-gadgets distract from literacy, critical thinking

Created: 2013-3-21

Author:Wan Lixin


THE other day I was going down the elevator in my apartment building. It stopped at another floor, where a boy of about five was busy touching the panel of an iPad, with his mother beside him.

The mother shouted: “Get in!” The boy marched in without taking his eyes off the panel.
While the elevator was going down, the mother gave the boy a severe dressing-down, but there was no knowing if the boy heard the diatribe, for he was so concentrated on his toy.
Then the elevator stopped at the ground floor, and the mother shouted: “Get out!” and the boy exited, his eyes still glued to the screen.
If anything, that did explain why flat panels are good nurses. Some reports claim babies less than three years old ? too young for kindergartens ? could enjoy iPads, which can be at once instructive and entertaining.
If you look around, these e-gadgets have a mysterious way of taming or pacifying otherwise excitable or irritable individuals, children or adults.
Often have I watched in crowded metro trains where commuters, wrapped up in their e-gadgets, seem quite oblivious to the pushing, jostling and shoving, or even trading of slurs about them.
False remedy
Sometimes there are young couples aboard, and they often appear to be more interested in their mobile phones than each other.
IPads are initiating us into so brave a new world, that some educators are talking of introducing them into classroom, if they are not already doing this.
An elementary school master in Beijing proudly claimed that the new paradigm for teaching is flat panel plus a huge electronic storage of learning resources, rather than the traditional blackboard and textbooks.
One of the many facts cited in defense of iPads is that they can spare kids the burden of heavy school bags, or school luggage.
Ironically, the remedy can be worse than the disease.
For one thing, the flickering, flashy, and fast-moving screen images are compromising student eyesight at an alarming rate.
Further, since users of electronic devices have to lower their heads over the device in fixed position for long hours, such stiff postures can lead to a host of ailments in the spinal column, cervical vertebra and/or intervertebral discs. That’s a particular problem for children or babies who are less able to resist the addiction.
Another objection is that information supplied by e-gadgets goes too quickly for the adaptive powers of human beings in general, and children in particular.
This is unlike the natural world where change is often more measured, and to which human beings have been biologically adjusted.
Unlike a book which you can always put down for reflection, with an iPad or computer, the user (or slave) is always driven to execute the next click or touch, just as a TV viewer is eager to know what the next channel is about.
Children’s psychology
This obsession tells on children’s psychology. “The child is confronting a lifeless, chilly iPad panel. When he is enjoying himself, can he hope for any response? No. He has some little idea which he would like to share with others, and can he get any response? None,” observed Xu Xiuming, a pediatrician at a hospital affiliated with Fudan University.
When a child is reading a book, in his mind there are simultaneous processes of comprehension, memorization and integration. But with computers, study is increasingly about Googling. The answer is always lurking nearby.
Children are deprived the joy, and the benefit, of actually working out the answers for themselves. The teachers have also been emancipated, or enslaved, in the electronification of the classroom.
With a projector, a teacher willingly designates himself or herself to the role of a keyboard operator.
With the keyboard, they need no longer prepare for the classes, fear for the dust from chalk, or dread the exertion of reading aloud.
While some Chinese schools are busy replacing books with flat panels or blackboards with projectors, or even conducting lectures online, according to The New York Times (November 7, 2011) some employees of Silicon Valley giants like eBay, Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard are sending their children to schools whose teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud.
“Not a computer to be found. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home,” it reported.
Schools without computers
The central message is: Computers and schools don’t mix.
Yin Jun observed in a commentary on Xinmin Evening News (January 22) that he had been to many universities in the West, and found that in studies of liberal arts, the lectures were always about writing on the blackboard, books and printed handouts.
In the law school of a very well-known Japanese university, Yin never found the use of ppt in class instruction, to say nothing of flat panels.
Paul Thomas, a former teacher and an associate professor of education at Furman University in South Carolina, said, “Technology is a distraction when we need literacy, numeracy and critical thinking.”
It is high time our educators heeded the contrarian view.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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