Recently there was an article on Salon.com by Sara Scribner who interviewed author and educational expert, Diane Ravitch. Most of the article discussed trends in education reform like privatization of schools. It also touched on technology in the classroom. Ravitch explained that many schools have committed to technology by giving each student an iPad or personal computer. There is an affirmation that technology can improve student performance.
This seems a long way from our concerns as parents of young children with autism. Or is it? Technology is especially appealing to many young children with autism. They seem to be drawn to the concrete visual presentation. Information and stories are explained in a consistent format. Games follow a predictable set of rules without social negotiations. Many of our kids love computer games, television shows, and videos. As parents we are pleased to see our children embrace this path to learning. But this article got us wondering, is this a special interest we want to encourage?
Research findings by Patricia Kuhl, University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Science, suggest that we should reconsider our children’s passion for technology as it applies to education. She reports on the constraints that young children have on what she calls computational mechanisms for language learning. She found that children learn only when interacting with a live human being. Young children with autism need engaged interaction with their parents, caregivers, teachers and siblings to learn the complexities of language and communication.
This current trend in education reform, as laid out by Ravitch, to rely more and more on technology as the solution to budget constraints seems counterintuitive given what we know about how children learn. While they aren’t literally advocating replacing staff with iPads, we find it troubling that many educational reformers propose increased technology as the answer to all our educational woes. Thought provoking, right? Especially when our kids who are drawn to technology and struggle with social engagement/interactions are thrown into the equation.
Tell us how technology is used in your child’s classroom. What impact have you seen on their learning?