Technology in the classroom cannot replace imagination

By Ariel Crawford
January 23, 2011

Do you hear that? It’s the sound of us becoming progressively stupider as a nation. This isn’t about not being patriotic. America is the greatest country on earth but it’s no longer the smartest.

Less than a hundred years ago in this country 8-year-olds could multiply by 481 in their heads. Flash forward to 2011 and the release of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study’s findings for 2010.

Thirty developed countries were ranked in math and science separately at fourth, eighth and 12th-grade levels. Fourth graders held their own coming in at a respectable third place behind Korea and Japan. Eighth grade sees American students drop to 17th place and they only manage to crawl up one space to 16th place by 12th grade. Is anyone else’s jaw on the floor?

I bet most high school students could tell me how to beat all the levels on Angry Birds or what happened on Jersey Shore last week and why it is so totally important but I would like to see if they could name at least half the elements on the periodic table.

Your 14-year-old cousin will tell you these things aren’t important because they’re “like never gonna use that junk.” I disagree. They teach us to use common sense. If you know science you know that aluminum doesn’t go in the microwave because it will start a fire. If you’re proficient in math you can balance a checkbook, which is a huge step to living independently. Living in my own house and not burning it down sounds pretty sweet to me.

One example of an educational app for the iPad is an iteractive table of elements. -- MCT --

What’s even sweeter is what I have learned in my humanities courses. English, history and the arts tell the stories of people both real and imagined. They lead us to laugh at images of ourselves, to cry with those who have been wronged, to ponder difficult questions like the meaning of life and love, the shades of grey that lie between good and evil.

So if were getting dumber we are in turn, losing our common sense and our sense of humanity. We are essentially turning over our ability to think independently and in return we are getting an iPad.

Technology is slowly but surely taking away our ability to think. There are calculators to do math, text messages to communicate with other human beings, GPS navigators to tell us to turn right when the sign in front of us also says turn right and to replace those silly books we were all so burdened by before.

It seems as though George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare has finally come to fruition. I’m sorry, that was an unfair reference. Most people don’t know who George Orwell is, after all he’s not on Facebook or Twitter or anything.

Americans must reclaim our lives. We must remove ourselves and our children from in front of the TV, which depicts mostly desensitizing, gratuitous violence and sexuality. We must put the cell phones away. We’ll live if we miss a text message telling us how a friend is ‘lol’ing.

As adults, we can give our kids a fair shot at being intelligent, free thinkers. We can put play and imagination back in schools. Schools seem to have plenty of computers but most lack good test scores. But there is a correlation between creating your own world at age five and creating the next life-saving solution at age 25.

Playing, imagining and learning together are first and foremost natural; there is nothing natural about the iPad. They also teach kids common sense life skills like problem solving and conflict management. Children also learn how to make connections between two seemingly different things and to think about information on their own. Unlike in most classrooms where students are taught to absorb, regurgitate and forget information.

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Ariel Crawford

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