Friday, March 31, 2023

It was with great pleasure that I read about the “Living Connected” campaign in last week’s Jewish Link (“Living Better, Connected” September 22, 2022). I strongly agree with the premise: We as a community rely far too much on technology, and it is harming our children’s ability to build normal relationships. The fact that the schools are involved in this effort is even more important, as outside of the home school is where our children spend more time than anyplace else. The schools can take on an incredibly important role and make a huge impact by actively partnering with us the parents, encouraging our children to reduce their screen time. To help this change, I strongly believe that the schools should stop relying so much on technology in the classroom.

In many classes, our children are given lessons, homework, textbooks and projects via some sort of device, whether that is a Chromebook, an iPad or a personal computer. In order to learn, our children must spend hours on a screen, reading the source material, answering questions, and submitting their work. Unfortunately, when they are forced to use their device, the temptation to misuse the device is not very far away. A video on Khan Academy quickly turns into the rabbit hole that is YouTube. After an IXL assignment is submitted, Discord is waiting. As the article stated, there is a clear difference between using a screen in a constructive manner versus a destructive one, but when there is so much temptation, it is very hard to avoid it—Lifnai Iver Lo Titein Michshol—”Before a blind man do not put a stumbling block.” These days technology is so central to our children’s learning that it is nearly impossible to make good choices.

I realize that this is a large request. The schools have invested a tremendous amount of time and money building out their technology platforms, and the individual teachers have spent even more time designing their curriculum. But this is not something that needs to happen immediately, and we are not trying to solve an unknown problem. Many of us—including many of the teachers—remember a time when reading assignments were from textbooks, and homework was given in workbooks. It is not an impossible task to return to what has worked in the past. There are also added benefits: The physical textbook makes it easier to browse, to flip through the few pages before the assignment and pick up a little more context, to read a few pages more to see how the story ended, to read a chapter that was not assigned simply because the title or some illustration looked interesting.

Perhaps as we enter the new year, our schools can take it upon themselves to make one small change to reduce our dependence on technology. Maybe they can plan to reintroduce textbooks next year, maybe stop giving homework via Google Classroom—the possibilities are almost endless. Just pick one and help us start reducing our dependence on technology.

Moshe Nemetski
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