By: Jayden McLeod
According to a recent international study, New Zealand teens are some of the highest users of digital technology.
But how do our teens of tomorrow stack up – with digital learning now a main component of the primary curriculum for kids as young as five?
St Mary’s Catholic School in Tauranga has integrated technology into every part of student learning, with iPads, computers and chromebooks in each classroom.
“Whereas previously we might have looked at computers as something students go to and interact with to complete activities on, now we look at technology as an enabler of learning – a tool to help enhance the learning experience,” said Principal, Ben Fuller.
“Students actually have the ability to go and get a device, as they see fit, then come back and utilise the device to support the learning or the outcomes and objectives that the student or teacher might have.”
But with some academics comparing technology use in children to a cocaine-like addiction, is there a better way?
Tauranga Waldorf School thinks children need to be able to learn at their own pace and not be dependent on digital devices.
“It’s like a toy,” said Deputy Principal, Sheryl Jenkins. “It’s like any toy that you give to children… there’s a Barbie Doll – now I want that Barbie Doll, there’s a phone – I must have that phone. I don’t think it is out of necessity myself. I feel there must be a balance struck, somewhere along the line.”
The country school believes in practical learning involving social interaction and outdoor programs where kids have a chance to get out into the environment.
“I’ve been out for coffee sometimes and seen parents hand their child a laptop, a three-year-old playing a game. I’ve just thought that was a baby-sitting service, that is all it’s being used for. It was the same with television.”
Research indicates children spend between four and six hours per day on smart devices, both at home and in school. Just what the long term effects of this will be is yet to be known.