Blackboards are so Twentieth Century. It seems like MCPS has replaced nearly every overhead projector with a bright and shiny Promethean board. They’re innovative, fairly easy to use and best of all, they have touch screens! But when does futuristic technology reach its limits? Don’t we get enough screen time as it is?
TV took radio by storm, the Internet is threatening to put newspapers out of business and it seems as though every sixth grader you know has a cell phone. Screens are all around us, and the incorporation of Promethean boards into our lives means that even inside the classroom we are surrounded by screen-based devices.
According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2008 conference on cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention, 60 percent of teenagers spend at least 20 hours a week watching television and using the computer, with about a third of teenagers spending 40 hours a week.
Think about it. Almost a third of teenagers spend nearly two days of their week staring at Facebook, YouTube, TV, videogames or whatever screen they like. The Promethean board contributes to students’ screen-based lifestyle, which has a negative effect on teens’ relationships through its reduction of face-to-face interactions that occur through the simple act of conversation.
Interacting in person builds social skills and prepares teens for adulthood. The delightful adolescent awkwardness of a boy asking a girl out on a date for the first time is lost in a text saying “You want to hang out some time?” It might be more difficult to do it in person, but it teaches teens to deal with rejection or allows them savor the satisfaction of this personal triumph. However, screen time has a harmful effect beyond students’ social lives.
It’s come to a point where in order to do homework, students require the use of a computer. While some enjoy the ability to check e-mail and write their English essay at the same time, I miss being able to do my homework at the kitchen table with the chaos of family life around me and my dog sniffing at my feet.
Too much computer time is also unhealthy. According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an estimated 60 million Americans suffer from eye related problems due to using computers.
Screens can lead to eyestrain, discomfort and dry eyes. The problems are usually minor and are not permanent. However teen obesity, which can lead to possibly fatal diseases like diabetes or heart diesease, is directly related to our inactive, screen-based lifestyle.
According to a 2004 issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the more hours spent watching television, the more likely children are to be both fatter and less physically active.
Children of this generation could be the first the have shorter lives than our parents, and this is directly related to childhood obesity. Obesity is rapidly expanding among children as more solitary entertainment options are used. Kids spend more time in front of the TV instead of playing outside than they used too.
According to Doreen Heath, the Assistant Chief of Information Officer at the MCPS Department of Technology Implementation and Support, students think that Promethean boards make learning more interesting. At a meeting of the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils, representatives lobbied for Promethean boards in every classroom, although they cost upwards of $1,000.
Before we had Prometheans, many teachers explained the lesson plan for the day and then allowed students to break up into groups to work on class assignments. Now, with the Promethean boards in our classrooms, some teachers spend nearly all of their instructional time at the front of the classroom lecturing while students take notes. This environment doesn’t allow students to work together collaboratively. Students experience the classroom differently with a Promethean board as the center of instruction. It stands between the students and the teacher as a third party in the room.
The Promethean board allows for the occasional YouTube video and PowerPoint slide that might liven up an otherwise boring class. A good teacher, however, can keep their students interested and engaged without technology. The excitement of a teacher who is passionate about their subject will never be replaced by a piece of new technology.