Classical Education and Technology

It is admissions season, and one of the questions I hear most often from prospective parents is, “How much technology do you use?” Some of these parents have certainly heard from politicians and educators who have called for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education at the expense of the arts and humanities.

As a classical school, we are a liberal arts school. This means we do not have a STEM focus with its attending digital devices at the expense of other subjects. Cornerstone resists this emphasis and takes a balanced approach to the academic disciplines with minimal student technology use in the younger grades through middle school.

Here is why…

Forbes Magazine contributor, George Anders, says, “Throughout the major U.S. tech hubs, whether Silicon Valley or Seattle, Boston or Austin, Tex., software companies are discovering that liberal arts thinking makes them stronger.”

Here is more…

These are pull quotes from online articles about STEM, technology, and education.

IEEE’s Spectrum Emphasizing STEM at the expense of other disciplines carries other risks. Without a good grounding in the arts, literature, and history, STEM students narrow their worldview—and their career options.

The New York Times: Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy [silicon valley], where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix.

The Guardian: According to Sylvie Sklan, the school’s [London Acorn School] chair of governors, this ethos is informed by a belief that digital devices inhibit imaginative thinking, movement, human interaction and attention spans and have no place in the education of young children.

Students under the age of 12 at the school in Morden, London, are banned from using smartphones and computers, and watching TV of films at all times, including during holidays. The school’s ethos is of a “gradual integration” of electronic devices throughout the child’s development with students allowed to watch television once they reach 12 years old and then only documentaries that have been previously vetted by parents. They cannot watch films until they are 14; the internet is banned completely for everyone under 16 – at home and and at school; and computers are only to be used as part of the curriculum for over-14s.
It may sound draconian, but Thorne believes taking a more considered approach to the use of technology in class allows teachers to help students develop core skills such as executive decision making, creativity and concentration – all of which are far more important than the ability to swipe an iPad or fill in an Excel spreadsheet. Besides, Thorne adds, much of the technology considered cutting edge today is likely to appear primitive in tomorrow’s world.

School is a learning journey and you want to make it as complex, rich and interesting as possible. The problem with instant information is that the ease with which you can get from A to B and find the answers doesn’t reflect real life,” she says.

Alzheimer’s.net: “Over-use of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain,” Byun Gi-won, a doctor at the Balance Brain Center in Seoul, told the JoongAng Daily newspaper.

Manfred Spitzer [German neuroscientist] asserts that all digital technology should be removed from classrooms.

The Scientific American: New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more.

All that said, there is a place for technology in education. Document cameras function as more versatile chalkboards and can make class time more efficient. Programming languages are logic heavy and require the hard work of critical thinking. Problems in the higher maths and sciences are often too complex to work out with a pencil and paper. Graphing calculators are an important necessity for high school math and children need to leave middle school knowing how to use them.

And those prospective parents–they leave impressed by the hard work, manners, and academic achievement of our students!

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