Digital media and technology are now more ingrained in the education system than ever before, and children are exposed to digital content at increasingly younger ages. Indiana is spending $1 million dollars this year to pilot an online preschool program called UPSTART, which is already in use in Utah, South Carolina, Ohio, Mississippi and Pennsylvania.
While some studies have shown that exposure to excess screen-time could lead to a lack in cognitive development, exposure to digital media technologies is nearly unavoidable in day-to-day life, and can have immense benefits.
This week on Noon Edition, our expert panel discussed the impact of digital technology on education and cognitive development, and what can be done to ensure that students are getting the most out of digital educational media.
Shannon Riley-Ayers of the Nation Institute for Early Education Research felt that the quality of interaction between young children and technology is the key factor in determining it’s usefulness as a learning tool.
“Teacher-child interaction, and even child-to-peer interaction, is important,” she says. “Technology can either advance that or hinder that. When I’m in a classroom and I see that for 30 minutes every child has their own iPad and they are working individually I don’t see that as a good use of technology for four or five year-olds.”
Curtis Bonk of Indiana University’s School of Education has studied education technology use in Indiana for 25 years, and has seen how implementation has shifted over time. Bonk says prior programs in place in Indiana showed success, but they stopped due to funding discrepancies.
“K-12 education is an up-and-down cycle in terms of funding. And yet the state budget compared to other states in the Midwest, and all around, is pretty stable,” he says. “We haven’t had the ups and downs overall economically.”
Erik Weitnauer is the co-founder of an education technology company that works to develop digital tools for math instruction, primarily for middle school students. Weitnauer says technology alone cannot provide instruction.
“What we’re trying to do is to build a tool which will actually help have more conversations and better conversations between teachers and peers about these mathematical concepts,” he says.