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Constant Technology Use May Hamper Kids' Ability To Learn 163

Posted by timothy
from the tell-me-again-in-30-seconds dept.
hessian writes "Scholars who study the role of media in society say no long-term studies have been done that adequately show how and if student attention span has changed because of the use of digital technology. But there is mounting indirect evidence that constant use of technology can affect behavior, particularly in developing brains, because of heavy stimulation and rapid shifts in attention."
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Constant Technology Use May Hamper Kids' Ability To Learn

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    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @06:42PM (#41868185)

      No, it says the same thing.

      Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day

      The study was looking at student attention spans and brain development, not specifically if those changes hamper learning (right from the summary, ignoring the trolling /. headline). Using all those different apps means they're switching attention that much more often and they only have ONE piece of technology. Constant technology use includes being surrounded by TV, ads designed to grab your attention, cell phones with direct connections to constantly changing media feeds (you don't want to miss anything), laptops, tablets, eBook readers, hand held games, warning systems, etc...

      Oh and by running that experiment, MIT is destroying that tribe's culture and they plan to mess with more just to see what happens. Research/Trying to play god like that should be outlawed.

      • by Pseudonym (62607)

        If we have leaned nothing else from seven seasons of TNG and seven seasons of Voyager, it's that the Prime Directive never makes it clear what course of action is correct.

      • by Riceballsan (816702) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @07:44PM (#41868507)

        "Oh and by running that experiment, MIT is destroying that tribe's culture and they plan to mess with more just to see what happens. Research/Trying to play god like that should be outlawed."

        Now I'm not an expert on geography, but I'm pretty certain most Ethiopians aren't ileterate due to choice or even religious reasons, it's because Ethiopia is a poor country where success is often just living to 20 without starving to death. As far as I know MIT didn't force the laptops into the villiage, or teach the kids to hide them from their parents (which IMO I still wouldn't oppose, hiding information from children to me for fear of compromised "Culture" or "Religion", is no different than binding a childs legs and throwing him in a wheelchair, which would be considered child abuse in most countries). Were all the scientists of america and europe's past destroying our culture. Did the work of Franklin, Telsa and Eddison ruin the culture of the world by making us more civilized. I mean it could be said that our old culture gathered around fires and candles, and those guys ruined it for us!

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          I'm pretty certain most Ethiopians aren't ileterate due to choice or even religious reasons

          What's your reason?

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Did the work of Franklin, Telsa and Eddison ruin the culture of the world by making us more civilized.

          There is a fairly obvious difference those three improving their own, and current day geeks interfering in someone else's civilisation.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Oh and by running that experiment, MIT is destroying that tribe's culture and they plan to mess with more just to see what happens. Research/Trying to play god like that should be outlawed.

        Why? Because a culture of illiterate people, unable to produce, never mind compete, in the modern world is morally superior to a literate, educated culture?

        Either way we are choosing to "play god". Withholding technology from these people is just as much of a choice as providing it. Just because it's the default posi

      • " Constant technology use includes being surrounded by TV, ads designed to grab your attention, cell phones with direct connections to constantly changing media feeds (you don't want to miss anything), laptops, tablets, eBook readers, hand held games, warning systems, etc..."

        I have read about study after study purporting that these devices change our brains and maybe even personalities, I haven't seen one -- not a single one -- demonstrating that those "changes" are still present when the technology is not. Nor have I seen any evidence -- even a little -- that these claimed "changes", even if retained, are harmful. The people claiming these things are strong on implication, but pretty short on evidence.

        • To use that word everyone loved in the 1990's, it's a Paradigm Shift. The simplest example is the raw internet - once you grok that the internet is "always on" (service glitches aside), your entire life changes forever. You can do or not-do something on the internet, but it's now a choice that needs to be made every hour of the day forever. Try reading old literature sometime, with the perspective of looking for when characters were really rather bored with nothing to do - "kick the can" for 3 hours and the

          • by Velex (120469)

            In the modern world, we don't just burn multiple hours doing nothing anymore.

            Sure we do. It's called Slashdot.

          • "The simplest example is the raw internet - once you grok that the internet is "always on" (service glitches aside), your entire life changes forever."

            Um, no. Once you grok that I was talking about what happens when you are out in the woods and there is no such technology available, your life will change for a few seconds.

            "I only managed to sit in the dark for an hour before I reached for my CD player, stash of AA batteries, flashlight, and a book."

            But there are 2 very visible reasons for that: (1) you were bored because with the power out in a modern home or apartment there usually isn't much to do, and (2) because you could. You had the player, you had the flashlight, you had the book.

            Your argument does not impress me. My question was: how would you cope or adapt without those

            • I wasn't coping. The key part of my note was "only able to take an hour of nothing". I had barely managed to think ahead and have my freshly purchased flashlight (I hadn't had one for years), my scavenged old AA's from the Big Box o' Stuff I dumped on the floor, and one of the 5 CD players from six years ago I hadn't needed. But I had all that because I am a pack-rat. I basically got lucky. If I hadn't had all of that I would have gone mildly crazy basically tossing and turning in bed until the power came b

              • THAT is an answer. Thank you. But personally -- even though I make my living on the internet -- I find the opposite to be true. I can go on a camping trip for 2 weeks with no phone and enjoy the hell out of it.
          • by tehcyder (746570)

            The simplest example is the raw internet - once you grok that the internet is "always on" (service glitches aside), your entire life changes forever.

            No, it doesn't. Winning ten million on the lottery changes your life forever. The internet just makes a lot of things easier to do.

            You can do or not-do something on the internet, but it's now a choice that needs to be made every hour of the day forever. Try reading old literature sometime, with the perspective of looking for when characters were really rather bored with nothing to do - "kick the can" for 3 hours and then dinner - really?! Or the farmers sitting around the parlor when Ma didn't feel like playing the piano, so they all just sat there kinda listless. Eew.

            You seem to think that simply having access to all the stuff you can consume on the internet means you are doing something. You're not, any more than if you're watching TV mindlessly.

            Stupid people have always got bored easily, and they still do if you give them a TV or internet connection. In "old literature" they probably engaged themselves with an actual book.

            • Sorry, but you missed every single line of my point. A huge part of the internet is "talking to people out there" and getting answers back. You disagreed with me but your reply is there, which is precisely what I meant. Having lots of "old literature" on my shelves, the amount of time they spend in the stories actually reading is a bit grim. Much more of it is spent pining away at various things.

              Meanwhile, with an internet connection, you can post notes and go to chat rooms and talk to people at all hours o

    • I believe the constant is a factor in this. While I'm no expert on solar based tablets, I have a feeling that their off time is larger then their on time, as well we are talking 1. systems loaded with pretty much all educational software, no wifi etc... in a location in which there are absolutely no teachers or other means tech > nothing, while systems with non-educational software, endless instant gratification games etc... doing so can cause your attention span to be shorter, when dealing with teachers
    • When I was young, Congress was trying to decide if AC/DC's rock music and games of Dungeons and Dragons were causing all us youth to kill each other. Somehow I survived all the death and devastation - I have no idea how.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is almost as bad as rock & roll music.

    • Re:Scary. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by noobermin (1950642) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @05:42PM (#41867737) Journal

      I was just going to say that. From TFA:

      “What we’re labeling as ‘distraction,’ some see as a failure of adults to see how these kids process information,” Ms. Purcell said. “They’re not saying distraction is good but that the label of ‘distraction’ is a judgment of this generation.”

      also

      The surveys include some findings that appear contradictory. In the Common Sense report, for instance, some teachers said that even as they saw attention spans wane, students were improving in subjects like math, science and reading.

      I don't usually bag on teachers, but may be this is a sign that your methods are becoming--shock--outdated?

      • by Gorobei (127755)

        I was just going to say that. From TFA:

        “What we’re labeling as ‘distraction,’ some see as a failure of adults to see how these kids process information,” Ms. Purcell said. “They’re not saying distraction is good but that the label of ‘distraction’ is a judgment of this generation.”

        also

        The surveys include some findings that appear contradictory. In the Common Sense report, for instance, some teachers said that even as they saw attention spans wane, students were improving in subjects like math, science and reading.

        I don't usually bag on teachers, but may be this is a sign that your methods are becoming--shock--outdated?

        Traditional school is was pretty horrible in my mind. Most kids were lost or bored in math and science. Geography, history, etc, were just fact cramming: a free grade for those who could only learn by rote, pointless data for others. God forbid you picked a promising, but inappropriate book from the library: you were stuck with it for an hour or a day. Talk about a low information environment.

        Bring on the internet, I say. It can't be any worse that the old system. It's already revolutionized work (I used to

        • Geography, history, etc, were just fact cramming

          I actually noticed the same thing with math, and oftentimes, even science. Just memorize these equations and look for the patterns I showed you to figure out when you should used them on the test! Oh, and it's okay to forget them after that; your math teacher next year will have you memorize them again...

          • by Alex Belits (437) *

            And this is a completely separate and much more important problem -- students do not understand the material, and have nothing but superficial similarities to guide them in application of those thoughtlessly memorized methods. They have fake knowledge that is applied in cargo-cult fashion, and provides nothing for future learning or improvements.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Bring on the internet, I say. It can't be any worse that the old system.

          yes, let's just let kids surf 4Chan all day. What could possibly go wrong?

      • I'll make this issue more puzzling by pointing out how, in the US, many systems are cheating on students' test results because of the high stakes instituted by No Child Left Behind. I know that Atlanta and Montgomery, AL, schools have recently been busted because administrators were changing test results. And, in Montgomery, making extreme changes, say like a 7 on a skills test being changed to a 70. Likely the situation is worse in Southern states, where education funding problems are often worse. But I st
    • This is almost as bad as rock & roll music.

      It's as bad as sock-hops, Elvis Presley's dancing, VCR's, Atari games, color television, and carbonated sodas - each of which nearly "destroyed America's youth" at some point in the past 70 years.

      • This is almost as bad as rock & roll music.

        It's as bad as sock-hops, Elvis Presley's dancing, VCR's, Atari games, color television, and carbonated sodas - each of which nearly "destroyed America's youth" at some point in the past 70 years.

        But, of course, not quite as bad as Dungeons and Dragons and books about Hobbits. NOTHING could be THAT dangerous to America's youth.

  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @05:33PM (#41867655)

    while out?

    seems to be generational but my younger friends (20's) are always checking their phones, even while I'm talking to them at dinner or a social event!

    what the hell. since when was that good manners?

    since never. but few seem to care.

    additionally, look at the younger crowd as they walk on the public streets. if there isn't a pair of white wires coming out of their ears and their stand perma-pointed downward, then they are the odd one out.

    this is directly related to attention span and constantly 'needing' to be connected.

    time will tell, but I don't think this is a foward step.

    • by noobermin (1950642) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @05:45PM (#41867763) Journal

      How can these kids stand that rock n' roll music? Kids these days.

      • They're so much less mature than their grandparents' generation - who were blowing up outhouses with sticks of dynamite and drag racing their '57 Chevy's instead.
      • by niko9 (315647)

        You comparing the love of music to playing with an appliance? Sheesh.

        • Your comparing your dope smoking, rebellious music to my taste in jazz that actually has class? Sheesh.

    • by Kohath (38547)

      Just tell them to keep off your lawn.

      Seriously though, manners are out of fashion. And they'll continue to be out of fashion until Hollywood and the rest of the pop culture crowd becomes irrelevant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aurashift (2037038)

      while out?

      seems to be generational but my younger friends (20's) are always checking their phones, even while I'm talking to them at dinner or a social event!

      what the hell. since when was that good manners?

      since never. but few seem to care.

      I "belong" to this generation. If there isn't a pause in the conversation for them to read some inane text saying "whats up gurlll", or I'm actively talking and they pull out their windows phone (just kidding) I'll snap my fingers to get their attention. If they have the attention span of a three year old and do it again they're wasting my time and I'll leave them to their angry birds.

      If you're a dick I have no problems being a dick right back. They might not like having their faults pointed out and I do

    • You know what else is bad manners? Starting your sentences with a lower-case letter
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jittles (1613415)

      while out?

      seems to be generational but my younger friends (20's) are always checking their phones, even while I'm talking to them at dinner or a social event!

      what the hell. since when was that good manners?

      since never. but few seem to care.

      additionally, look at the younger crowd as they walk on the public streets. if there isn't a pair of white wires coming out of their ears and their stand perma-pointed downward, then they are the odd one out.

      this is directly related to attention span and constantly 'needing' to be connected.

      time will tell, but I don't think this is a foward step.

      If I get a text message while talking to you, I'll pull out my phone and check it. Same way that I would check my phone for a call if one came in while we were takling. Is it rude? I don't think so. Will I respond to the message, or even do more than glance at it? Not likely. Would it be good manners for me to be upset if you checked your phone during a social event? What if your wife was calling and it was an emergency? Who the hell am I to judge you? Now if you spent the entire conversation texting a

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        If I get a text message while talking to you, I'll pull out my phone and check it. Same way that I would check my phone for a call if one came in while we were takling. Is it rude? I don't think so.

        It's rude if you don't say "excuse me, I have to take this" or something. Just whipping your phone out and scanning the text messsage with no comment while someone is talking is incredibly fucking rude, whether you are prepared to admit it or not.

        • by jittles (1613415)
          First of all, I said glance, not scan. There is a huge difference. When you scan something, you look at it thoroughly. Secondly if I am talking then yes I will say "One second" but I am not going to interrupt someone in the middle of a sentence to glance at my phone. I consider it to be far more rude to interrupt someone in the middle of speaking. I can apologize to them after they are done talking. Finally, I can glance at my phone without even taking it all the way out of my pocket. I'd be willing to
  • I lost my attention span with the "Page Not Found".

    Maybe a link check is in order?

  • So the news is... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kohath (38547) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @05:39PM (#41867705)

    there may or may not be a problem. Please update us every hour. Thanks.

  • Instead of parking them in front of your TV or your smartphone & Netflix, why not interact with them? Read them a story? Make pictures with glue and macaroni? DO SOMETHING.

  • Not so sure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @05:45PM (#41867769) Homepage Journal

    The only time my son seems to focus is when he is in minecraft and that is because he likes minecraft.

    • by greg_barton (5551)

      I could mod you up, but I think posting a "heck yeah" is better.

      Heck yeah!

      My daughter loves minecraft. I love that she loves minecraft. She's learning to memorize and mentally navigate a 3d environment. She's learning how to deconstruct tasks into subtasks and gather the resources necessary to accomplish those subtasks. She's constructing virtual houses. She just turned five.

      So we've been playing minecraft on ipads. The PC version is more complex, and she just discovered that, so now she wants a lapto

      • Just take care as she gets older. Minecraft has a chat feature which will expose the kids to all sorts of language as soon as they visit a public server. I run a private server and initially it was open. My son (ten years old) invited his friends then friends of friends, their older brothers... It turned into Lord Of The Flies at an exponential rate. So now we whitelist it. My son asked me casually if he could whitelist users if they spoke to him on skype first. I said when did you get skype? He says oh I m

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      The only time my son seems to focus is when he is in minecraft and that is because he likes minecraft.

      Unfortunately, you can't design education around just giving kids what they like.

      I know slashdotters will all have kids who are programming games, writing chamber music and publishing e-books by the time they're 6, but in the rest of reality you'd just end up with a generation of kids watching Disney teen sit-coms with canned laughter and bolted-on merchandising opportunities, and playing shitty K-Pop videos unironically on YouTube.

  • Bollocks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @05:50PM (#41867811)

    I use technology the whole time and my attention span is

  • by Brandano (1192819) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @06:13PM (#41867973)
    Other sources seem to show that children exposed to technology might actually end up learning better than otherwise. http://dvice.com/archives/2012/10/ethiopian-kids.php [dvice.com]
  • Constant technology? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @06:14PM (#41867983) Journal

    Or medication? I would blame the drug pushing pharmaceutical companies selling promises that the kid will behave if he just takes a pill...

  • by wrp103 (583277) <Bill@BillPringle.com> on Saturday November 03, 2012 @06:15PM (#41867989) Homepage

    I remember reading similar concerns when PBS came out with a radical new TV program called "Sesame Street." ;^)

    It is much easier asking these questions than doing actual research and coming up with some answers. I think a lot depends on what they are doing with technology: if they are reading and learning or just goofing around and wasting time.

    I taught college classes for a number of years. Eventually, it became very common for students to bring their laptops with them to class. Some of them followed my lecture notes and tried sample problems. Others read email, web sites, or played games with the sound turned off. As long as they weren't disruptive, I didn't try to stop them.

    Of course, K-12 is very different than college, but when I was in high school, I carried a book with me to read when a class got boring. These days I carry several books on my phone in case I get some extra time. My grades were pretty good, so I didn't seem to suffer from not paying attention.

    Essentially, the question seems to be: "Does the teacher have to keep the students entertained?" Perhaps it should be phrased: "Does the teacher have to keep the students involved?" Teachers that drone on endlessly, sometimes reading their lecture notes, will have problems. Those that interact with their students and have activities that involve the students will do much better. As always, anything that changes the current situation is suspect.

    • "A wrinkle in time" - great kids sci-fi fantasy book I read at HS in the early 70's, there's plenty of real science and math concepts in the book. It wasn't given to me by the teachers since the book is around #30-40 in the list of books that people most wanted to ban. Apparently a lot of parents in the US don't like their kids reading about imaginary witches, even if they are educational and fun witches. Wonder what those same people think about Shakespear's witches, why the lack of petitions to ban the Ba
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Wonder what those same people think about Shakespear's witches, why the lack of petitions to ban the Bard?

        They probably have never read anything by Shakespeare, and just assume he's some safe Dead Guy.

    • by nbauman (624611)

      Television! That's what started the whole thing. Kids don't sit around reading books any more.

      And the phonograph! Families don't sit around the piano singing songs any more.

    • by Velex (120469)
      At my high school, they'd just throw the book away. Why would you take anything that might have resale or especially sentimental value into a classroom?
  • Has anything else changed at the same time that might affect students?

    Do the changes, if any, hurt or help their ability to learn in our current environment of constant torrents of information?

    There's a claim about "ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks". Do electronic games present challenging tasks that require perseverance? (Sorry, rhetorical question).

  • It has to be the smartphones and laptops everywhere! Because kids did none of these things back in 1998
  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @07:43PM (#41868495) Homepage Journal

    Constant Technology Use May Hamper Kids' Ability To Learn

    It has certainly hampered my ability to take out the garbage or rake leaves in the backyard, as my wife will gladly tell you.

  • by Osgeld (1900440) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:14PM (#41868741)

    So does sitting in a near silent classroom listening to a teacher drone on and on and on, with little or no regard to if anyone is paying attention for hours a day, most of the year, 12+ years in a row.

    • by lewko (195646)

      I sat in an 'interactive' classroom for five year olds. Basically a 'smartboard' which was a projector and touchscreen.

      When it was 'story time', the teacher presented the story similarly to any Powerpoint presentation. Except after every page, rather than moving on, the children would have to approach the board and 'find' various elements, singing birds, growing flowers etc.

      I was thinking that the kids in China could have read six books in the time it took this class to get through one. It was totally uncle

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      So does sitting in a near silent classroom listening to a teacher drone on and on and on, with little or no regard to if anyone is paying attention for hours a day, most of the year, 12+ years in a row.

      You had bad teachers, which is a shame.. The solution is to employ good teachers, not just to say "fuck it, go and watch YouTube for six hours a day instead".

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday November 03, 2012 @08:58PM (#41869043)
    TL;DR
  • Math students don't memorize their sine and cosine tables anymore, law students can barely speak Latin, and these young hot-shot doctors barely know a leech from a hole in the ground! But the real trouble started when they put one of those fancy schmancy crank-operated pencil sharpeners in every classroom. When I was in school we sharpened our pencils with a small knife and it worked just fine. Guess these kids are too lazy to do a little whittling.
  • I'm sure they said the same thing about the technology miracle of post-WW2 that would revolutionize eductaion: the overhead projector.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      I'm sure they said the same thing about the technology miracle of post-WW2 that would revolutionize eductaion: the overhead projector.

      Growing up as a kid in the UK in the 60s/70s I never saw an overhead projector (or computer) til I got to University.

  • No wonder too many people have been misdiagnosed with ADHD. Maybe ADHD is not a bad thing after all.

    In fact, in highly dynamic environments, such as Wall Street traders, having hyperactivity actually helps, couple with the use of anti-depressants and crack cocaine, (Yes, there are major drug abuse problems in the heart of the American economy.)

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