Advice Column, Education, Tween & Teen Advice

Tech Solutions Can’t Solve Learning Problems

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As technology becomes an ever increasing element of our daily lives, educational specialists will gather to discuss how best to incorporate it in schools. However, technology cannot solve learning problems, caution Edublox.

On Friday 28 August 2015 teachers and education specialists will gather with IT personnel at the Technology in Education Conference in Johannesburg to explore technology in the education sector and discuss ways to improve outcomes in the classroom, particularly for Mathematics and Science.

Edublox Educational Practitioner, Louna Spies will discuss the relationship between technology and cognitive skills in Maths education.

“There’s no doubt that technology is a valuable tool for learning and there are many associated educational benefits, but teachers and parents should be careful to introduce technology as a learning tool at the right time and place according to a child’s needs and ability,” says Susan du Plessis, Director of Educational Programmes at Edublox.

Calculators, considered to be the most basic technology used in classrooms for many years, are not included in Grade 1 or Grade 2 school stationary lists. This, says du Plessis, is because children first need a foundational understanding of numbers, counting, addition and subtraction before technology can be used as a ‘short-cut.’ “Parents and teachers should note that technology cannot replace educational support for children with learning problems,” says du Plessis.

Computer programs designed to improve eye movement are now widely used as an intervention tool for reading difficulties. While eye movements are important for reading, Paarl-based optometrist Lizelle Loock warns that improving eye movements will not solve a reading problem. “Vocabulary, letter sounds and knowledge of spelling rules must first be established before reading can improve; only after these elements have been dealt with can we introduce computer reading programs to increase reading speed,” says Loock.

Du Plessis adds that cognitive skills such as focused attention, visual and auditory processing, memory and logical thinking also need to be developed before effective reading can take place.

Computer-based reading assessments can give parents a false sense of security regarding their child’s reading ability, says du Plessis who has noted that attention and memory have been negatively affected by technology. “Children do not have the memory capability they used to have and technology plays a role in this. Given the ease with which information can be found these days, knowing where to look is becoming more important for children than actually memorising something.”

Studies have found that reading from a book is more beneficial for long-term memory and comprehension than reading off a screen.* “Parts of the brain are developed through handwriting practice, something that touch-screen technology cannot provide. “There is value in writing by hand,” says du Plessis, “it helps fire up our brains to generate more ideas than typing does and it assists with conceptual understanding.”

A $10 million dollar study** involving 15 computer-based reading and Maths programs, 9424 learners and 439 teachers at 132 schools in the United States found no difference in academic achievement between students who used the technology in their classrooms and youngsters who used other methods.

Tips for parents

Do not rely on a computer program to assess your child’s reading ability, speed and comprehension. Look for scientific reading assessments conducted by a qualified specialist.

Ensure your child reads aloud to you regularly from a book they select for themselves. Ask them questions to gauge their level of understanding of what they have just read.

Monitor the time your child spends looking at a screen for educational or recreational purposes, whether it is a TV, computer, iPad or cell phone. School can be very boring for a child who is exposed to technology all the time.

Light from screens in the evening suppresses melatonin levels, a hormone that helps control your sleep and wake cycles. Let your child read an actual, printed book before bedtime.

When your child is a good reader, use computer technology to broaden their horizons and teach them to speed read.

Edublox are leading specialists in cognitive development with 22 reading and learning clinics across Southern Africa. Edublox offers multi-sensory cognitive training, aimed at developing and automatising the foundational skills of reading, spelling and mathematics. For more information about Edublox visit www.edublox.co.za.

*http://mic.com/articles/99408/science-has-great-news-for-people-who-read-actual-books

** http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20094041/pdf/20094042.pdf

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