Smart devices in the classroom: the good and the bad

I was driving into work the other day and heard an advertisement for something called smart pajamas.  The smart pajamas app the corresponds to a set of physical pajamas will apparently read a story to your child at bed time.  I’ve also seen all kinds of smart phones and pads for children and adults on the television that seem as if they will make you smarter and life easier. The thing that strikes me about these pajamas is the lack of human interactions that are required. Children can hear stories from a smart pajama. They can communicate with friends in partially spelled words and abbreviations like LOL or BRB. As adults, I even notice that people don’t always make eye contact when they communicate. They will speak while their staring at their ‘smart’ device instead of making eye contact with the person they are with.

Smart devices in the classroom: the good and the bad

I admit, I have a smart phone. I use it to communicate with friends and send me reminders about different things happening in my schedule so I don’t forget. I will also admit that I purchased the same smart phone for my kids because I needed them to be able to teach me how to use the thing.

As much as I love the ability to text and use my ‘smart’ phone to organize my life, it could never take the place of the friends and family that provide lots of support to me as I navigate life. I am lucky that I have many people in my life who do support me in all I do. When I have a difficult day, I share a cup of coffee with my Aunt and she provides a listening ear. When I have exciting news to share, I make a cake and share it with my family so that they can celebrate with me. When I have questions to ask of my supervisor, I walk into her office and discuss the things I need to learn more about.

When I look at Ohio’s Early Learning and Development Standards, I see many opportunities for children to learn how to develop skills to interact with others. Within the Social and Emotion Domain, there are topics such as attachment, peer interactions and empathy. Ohio has created an implementation guide to support teachers in planning for these newer domains. For example, a goal within the topic of empathy for toddlers is to demonstrate awareness of the feelings expressed by others. There are many ways for teachers to support children in achieving this goal.  Teachers could read books that model compassion. Teachers could provide children with positive feedback for children who attempt to comfort one of their peers. Another best practice would be to model the behavior that is expected.

Smart devices are popular because they are so convenient. I’ve seen teachers use them in lesson planning and for documentation of learning. Some of the skills that children can learn through the use of this kind of technology are incredible. Among all of the knowledge that comes with smart devices, the most important skill to teach children is how to know when it is time to put their smart device down and be conscious of what is happening in the world around them.

–Angie G.