Joshua’s children and grandchildren did not have an easy time as the brood of a taskmaster who demanded that they do chores, help in the fields, go to school and attend church. Work came first, but Joshua also knew the value of play. He recognized that even the progeny of Joshua Calhoun needed to keep the world around them in perspective. They needed to progress at their own pace and explore their own destinies. Joshua knew that children need balance in their lives.
Education policymakers would do well to channel a bit of Joshua’s attitude on balance and ensure that the pursuit of high quality technology in schools does not come at the expense of using multiple strategies, educational tools and even simple play in teaching and learning.
A recent article in the Washington Post reported a modification in South Korea’s plan to eliminate all traditional textbooks and replace them with digital ones that could be accessed on any screen, anytime, anywhere. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/in-south-korean-classrooms-digital-textbook-revolution-meets-some-resistance/2012/03/21/gIQAxiNGYS_story.html
In its pursuit of having the most technologically advanced education system in the world, South Korean officials rightly acknowledge the limitations of bound textbooks; but they neglected to consider the implications that the perpetual use of technology devices could have on the social, emotional and physical development of children. Fortunately South Korean educators and parents pushed back on the plan to have, what they considered, excessive student dependency on digital devices. One official was quoted as saying that without changes in the policy, “young students won’t have as much time to experience real life and real things.” Under the proposed changes, first and second grade students will not be using digital devices and older students will use a combination of traditional books and devices.
I applaud the South Korean government for the mid-course correction. Don’t get me wrong. I am not opposed to digital textbooks or educational technology. In fact, I love technology. I have a bunch of the i gadgets – pod, pad, max, phone, tunes, etc., but I am also keenly aware of how caught up I can get with those devices, sometimes to the exclusion of other essential activities. Like the Korean education system I often find myself re-evaluating how these tools usurp “real life and real things.”
When it comes to our children, I believe we must be as vigilant as the South Koreans when it comes to technology. The more tethered children are to digital devices, the less time they spend developing the social and emotional skills essential for functioning in an interdependent society. The more time children spend in front of a screen, the less time they have for exercise and physical fitness. The more time children are exercising their fingers and thumbs, the less time they have for inventive and creative play.
The role of play in child development, healthy living and academic achievement is essential to a whole child approach to education. Play is not simply the manipulation of toys and handheld gaming systems. Play includes movement, activities, actions, strategic thinking and make-believe. All children learn through play. All students need to play to keep balance in their lives.
Joshua understood that over one hundred years ago, shouldn’t we?
This blog and the ensuing commentaries are dedicated to the memory of Joshua and Missouri Calhoun and their awe-inspiring descendents who motivate me every day to continue the journey.