No Computers in our Classrooms?

Do you ever wonder why students are bored in school? Or, why so many of our country’s high school graduates are functionally illiterate? Do you watch the interviews over the 4th of July holiday and shake your head at how little of our history college graduates understand?

The most popular teaching technique in our schools today is computers in the classroom. Millions of dollars have been and continue to be spent on putting iPads and computers in every student’s hands. Modern schools proudly exhibit their computer labs and proclaim themselves as 1:1 schools. But, at what cost?

If education was conducted like a business, before a wide scale costly change was made there would be studies done to see if the changes were going to be effective. Unfortunately, for our nation’s children, educational studies tend to be done after the expensive changes are made and students end up being treated like guinea pigs.

In the case of computers in the classroom, most people believe that the more digitized a campus is, the more cutting edge and successful the students will be. But, studies show this is not the case. Education Next states, “Although students overwhelmingly like to use their devices, a growing research base finds little evidence of positive effects and plenty of indications of potential harm.” They conducted a study at West Point and found, “… that allowing any computer usage in the classroom—even with strict limitations—reduces students’ average final-exam performance by roughly one-fifth of a standard deviation. This effect is as large as the average difference in exam scores for two students whose cumulative GPAs at the start of the semester differ by 0.17-grade points on a standard 0–4.0 scale. Importantly, these results are from a highly competitive institution where student grades directly influence employment opportunities at graduation—in other words, a school where the incentives to pay attention in class are especially high.” (Education Next).

A new study recently conducted found that not only are computers in the classroom adversely affecting academic performance but are also adversely affecting students’ emotional health. Dr. Gaya Dowling, who is conducting the NIH study says,”kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests.” (60 Minutes Interview)

Most importantly, when students spend time on computers in class they are doing it at the expense of other educational opportunities. Looking at what these students are missing may give us a glimpse into why their test scores are falling.

Elementary students are like sponges. They can retain information like nobody’s business and they love acquiring knowledge! They love songs, chants, and multi-kinesthetic learning. Instead of taking full advantage of this fun stage of development, our educators are putting iPads in their hands and creating zombies.

At The Geneva School, we approach this stage of learning, what we call the grammar stage, by incorporating a lot of chants, songs, and narrations to stimulate the students’ brains. Two of the most important skills we teach are cursive and spelling.

We teach our students cursive in Kindergarten. Most schools either teach cursive in third grade or, in many schools, not at all.  Cursive is easier for developing fine motor skills. When you write in cursive, you are not constantly picking up your pencil and putting it down. Think about how many times you pick up and put down your pencil to form the letter a or b.  In cursive, your writing utensil stays on the paper while you write the entire word, making the transition from phonograms to spelling words more intuitive. When students write in cursive first, there is a lower incidence of dyslexia. When students write in cursive on a piece of paper, with a pencil, with proper pencil grip, they are sending the strongest signal to their brain by stimulating the nerves in their most sensitive finger, the pointer finger, crossing the midline of their body, stimulating their brain to use the different hemispheres simultaneously.  When students type on a keyboard, they never cross the midline of their brains, missing repetitive opportunities to build that skill in their brains. (How Cursive Writing Helps Us Learn)

Secondly, we teach our students to spell analytically and then to read analytically. By teaching the students the 70 basic phonograms and 28 basic spelling rules, and requiring them to use them while spelling, and then to read, we create analytical readers. Learning to read in this manner stimulates the higher level thinking area of the brain and actually creates a more dense network of dendrites. When students get into the critical thinking stage, they will actually have a stronger capacity for critical thinking. So, we are not just creating excellent spellers and readers, we are creating life-long thinkers!

As you can see newer is not always better, especially in education. This is just a sampling of what The Geneva School does to develop the critical thinking skills of our students. To find out how your child can benefit from a classical Christian education, please peruse our website or call 949-377-1616.

by Gina Bonecutter, Head of School