This post is contributed by Marcelo Lewkow, National Director of ORT Chile.
It often seems as if everyone in the education world today is racing to keep up-to-date with the latest technological developments and to integrate the latest technical gadgets into their teaching. The benefits of using technology to engage students in the classroom are well-rehearsed, and I have no wish to dispute them. Nevertheless, I have been involved in a project which prevents school students from using technological devices in school. Let me give the background and explain the rationale…
Maimonides School in Santiago, Chile, is an orthodox Jewish school which achieves consistently high academic results. The school makes frequent use of technology where it enhances the teaching and learning environment – both inside of the classroom and for homework/extension tasks. We certainly have all the technological equipment that we need. However, we have decided to ban students completely from using their own communication devices – smart phones, tablets, or anything else – inside school. Of course, much of the received wisdom nowadays is that making use of students’ own devices for positive educational purposes in the classroom will involve them more in their studies. So why are we going against the grain?
This generation of school students is permanently “connected” – via instant messaging, via Facebook, via music sharing sites and via many other platforms. Absorption in this online world can often come at the expense of developing meaningful face-to-face relationships – for children especially. At Maimonides, we think that schools can offer one of the last places for addressing this and for reducing the “noise” which comes from being constantly connected. We want students to relate to their teachers and peers on a person-to-person level, not always interrupted by technological distractions.
As a by-product, this decision has helped us also to reduce the amount of contact between students and their parents during the school day. Students would sometimes worry or mislead their parents by contacting them immediately after any minor incident that happened at school. This would also result in teachers feeling undermined, if parents knew better than them what had been going on at school. The distance at school between students and their parents is a healthy space for growth, and should remain this way. Our policy has helped to maintain this space.
Much educational research points to the fact that education is an inherently social activity. If there is no real interaction, there is no real learning. Online interaction is great, but it cannot be the only kind of interaction. That is why we are going back to basics at Maimonides and refocusing the way that our students communicate – between themselves, with staff and with their parents.