1704365185 A screen and education expert from the USA My students

A screen and education expert from the USA: “My students don’t understand handwriting”

Joe Clement, in an image from the Chicago Review Press.Joe Clement, in an image from the Chicago Review Press.

American Joe Clement (Fairfax, Virginia; 54 years old) has taught high school for 30 years and began worrying about his students' addiction to technology a decade ago. As a result of careful analysis, he wrote “Screen Schooled” with his partner Matt Miles in 2017, which fueled public debate about its use in his country, where children dream of having their first cell phone when they are nine years old or younger . EL PAÍS interviewed Clement, who teaches economics and government to students, at a Qatar Foundation educational meeting where the teacher discussed the consequences of this “overdose” of cell phones and tablets.

Questions. In Spain, parents are now starting to discuss whether their children use mobile phones.

Answer. That's fine. Technology is an advantage, but it is also addictive in children.

Q Do you have a cell phone?

R. Yes, but the difference is that it is until a child's late teens and early 20s that their brain develops the ability to make decisions and think critically. We adults grew up without phones and for us they are just an accessory. When you don't know anything other than your phone, you make really bad decisions. They spend all day playing video games, watching pornography, and browsing social media. So, as a parent, you need to ask yourself: At what age do I think my child is ready for unlimited video games and entertainment?

Q At what age can you give a cell phone as a gift?

R. My nine-year-old daughter is the only one of her friends who doesn't have access to a phone or tablet. The later the better.

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Q In Spain it is very common to start secondary school at the age of 12.

R. It's still very early. The bad sides of phones cannot be ignored. We want to believe that if that doesn't happen, our children will magically take advantage of all the good things.

Q When did you start thinking about screen use?

R. A decade ago. I realized that the students were not able to think critically, were not concentrating for long periods of time, and were not reading thoroughly. I discussed it with another teacher and we started talking about technology addiction and were interested in the effects of spending so much time in front of a screen. Our book came about from all of this.

Q And didn’t other teachers join in too?

R. No no. We thought they were going to say, “Oh, good job,” when we wrote it, but no. We spent a lot of money on computers and tablets, and people didn't want to hear that maybe it wasn't as good. Although there were social reactions, the issue received attention [en los medios].

Q In their book they also claim that technology kills curiosity.

R. Yes, you don't have to think anymore. Hey, what's blah blah blah? Take a look, right?

Q But before We consulted them dictionary.

R. Before, you were looking for a word, but you had to sit down and think: How do I solve this problem? Now you can return to the video game. Technology kills curiosity. And then there is the false narrative that children are so curious because of the wealth of information that they are constantly learning something, when that is not the case. If I had played on my cell phone when I was 12 or 15, I wouldn't have known any great literary works.

Q Do they have such poor reading comprehension?

R. If you're constantly reading on your phone, you're training your brain to only read two or three sentences, and then your brain needs new stimulation. When you try to refocus, you forget where you were and what the context was. So you don't understand the full meaning of what you are reading.

Q Do you see problems with handwriting?

R. If many. When I return the work to my students, the comments must be in printed handwriting because they do not know how to read handwriting. And theirs are often very difficult to read because they just never practice. Writing is important for content, grammar and spelling.

Q Do you use computers in class?

R. At our school every student has a computer. There are times when it makes sense for them to look for something. In an astronomy course, I want my students to see stars on the computer, but the frequency with which a screen is the best tool is pretty low. Using chalk all day is boring, but it doesn't harm children, unlike screens.

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Q What should parents do?

R. Speak between them. The cell phone is often given to the son so that he is not the only one who does not have it. But if it is agreed that they will not get it until they are 15 or 18, the boys will interact and play with each other. You can tell him that he has 45 minutes to play with the screens, but then he will tell you that he has to do his homework on the computer and while he is online, play games and watch movies. Homework of 20 minutes is completed in this time using a printed book as it is actually read, while online it takes three hours. They get distracted and wander from here to there.

Q But Americans are very good at oral expression, they encourage debate.

R. This is definitely declining. It's funny you say that because last week I was having this conversation with my students about this. I told them that they have to speak publicly three times this year. They don't want to participate because they think it will show that they are communicating with the world through their phone. Companies are looking for people who can give a presentation and be convincing, you have to practice that.

Q In the 21st century, certain technological skills are also required.

R. It used to be that you turned on a computer and all you saw was a message and a little blinking cursor. And that was it. Since there were no photos, it was quite difficult to use. Now a child can literally turn on computers and use them. The hard part is thinking, concentrating and problem solving when we need to be able to do that in the real world.

Q What do you think Sweden will return to printed books?

R. In the United States we have more and more phones and more and more computers. It's not just Sweden, Great Britain and France that have banned cell phones in schools. The rest of the world is starting to wake up and take action to solve this health crisis.

Q A mental health crisis made worse by the pandemic.

R. Yes, of course. If social media was so good back then and it was so good for kids to have computers, people should be happier today, right? And they are not. They are sad. And children are committing suicide, they are more anxious and depressed than ever before. There are now enough studies that show that there is a causal connection: the more time we spend in front of the screen, the worse we feel mentally. And that's why I think some nations are waking up.

Q A Stanford University study says that only 9% of technological applications have been proven useful.

R. It is like it is. Educational tools are often developed by people who have never been in the classroom and do not typically consult teachers. Their main goal is to make money and they are constantly looking for ways to collect and sell data from students and schools, although the welfare of children must be at the forefront.

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