Not according to some of the top tech executives in Silicon Valley. A New York Times profile of the Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Silicon Valley showed that counterintuitively, many of the top technology executives in the world believe that, when it comes to their own kids, the best environment for learning is technology-free.
The New York Times piece quotes Alan Eagle, a Google executive: ““I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school.”
The idea is that technology can stifle creativity, that technology is not only unnecessary but actually harmful, particularly in the younger ages when building a foundation of creativity is so important. Get them grounded and let them play and be creative in the real world. There will be plenty of time for them to apply that creativity to technology later in life.
At first blush this notion seems hypocritical, right? You executives who are populating the world with technology are showing your true colors by withholding it from your own kids.
So are these techno-Luddites right or wrong? I speak from experience on this issue as a parent, and I say they’re on to something.
The Maine school district my kids attend has invested quite a bit in technology. In elementary school many teachers use interactive smart boards. Starting in 7th grade each child is given access to their own personal MacBook laptop or iPad.
On the elementary level, the technology is a tool, but only one of many tools used in learning. Just as important are playgrounds and arts programs and blackboards and chalk (OK, whiteboards and dry erase markers).
In the middle school and high school levels, not withstanding the best of intentions by teachers, the devices are primarily used by the kids for gaming and Facebooking. What has surprised me some so far is they don’t seem to be teaching the older kids much about the technology itself. There is no class in the high school on any computer topic beyond the level of basic web programming.
So I think these tech executives are on to something. They live and breathe technology every day. And when it comes to their own children, the rubber meets the road – and they know in their hearts that on the whole, technology is more likely to be a creativity-draining distraction than a tool for education.
Look, it’s not about just exposing them to technology and magically they’ll be starting tech companies. You don’t need technology in schools to get kids interested in it. Anyone who spends much time around kids these days knows how ridiculous this concept is. Right now exposing them to technology in schools simply makes them more addicted to the technology executives’ products.
What is most important in education fostering creative critical thinking. Technology – like any other tool – must be subservient to that goal.
Once you have an independent-thinking individual, then that person is more likely to grow up to be a contributor to society, be it in the arts, medicine, market research, marketing – or any field, including technology.