Tags: literacy education, parenting, technology and education
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from Jane Hunter
A parent with a small child in a stroller is walking along the footpath with headphones in. The child is crying, the parent is oblivious.
A parent walks into a cafe engaged in conversation on the phone, with a child tagging along. The parent orders a coffee and a drink for the child. The parent sits down and continues talking on the phone. A tablet computer is pulled out of the parent’s bag and passed to the child. The parent continues talking on the phone.
A parent enters a doctor’s waiting room with child in arms, sits down; the child is placed on a nearby chair. The child is handed a mobile phone to play with, while waiting.
Is technology the villain?
As a parent and educator I encourage teachers to integrate technology in learning at schools. I have done a number of large studies in the area, and studies show educational programs on computers and other devices have great potential to improve early learning.
But primary school principals and early years’ teachers have expressed concern to me about the increased numbers of kindergarten students with obvious speech delays – so much so that in many schools speech therapists have been called in.
One inner-city Sydney school principal said:
From 62 kindergarten children this year, 11 require speech therapy. That is almost 18% of the cohort. While I am an advocate for using technology in education, I am very concerned about basic human skills like speech not being as developed as well as they could be when young children start school.
Are parents relying on technological devices to entertain their children – known as “pass ‘n’ play” – rather than direct conversation, story reading, playing games and make-believe, and other forms of quality interaction?
There aren’t enough studies on the effects of parents’ use of technology on children’s speech development to make definitive claims, but the fact that it has been raised by teachers and principals suggests we need to look into the issue more closely.
Pass ‘n’ play
This is just as it sounds: the parent passes the child a technological device to play with while in the café or in the doctor’s waiting room. While technology certainly has its place in childhood development, devices should be used as active tools providing quality interactions, not as pacifiers.
Parents should use the device with an educational app or game to question and talk about what is happening on screen. If technological devices are just “inbuilt babysitters” or “moment fillers” they are not fulfilling the educational capacity for which they could be used.
Similar fears of declining familial interactions were raised with the promulgation of television in the 1950s. The main difference here, however, is that these smart phones and tablet computers are carried everywhere we go.
What does the research say?
A UK study suggested “technology gadgets are blamed for a 70% leap in speech problems in the past six years”. In a follow-up article, a US paediatric speech pathologist asked whether technology is damaging children’s speech and language skills; it concluded too much time on devices is definitely playing a role.
When parents are endlessly busy on computers, phones, tablets and watching TV, that is time they are not spending interacting with their child. https://www.webchild.com.au/read/viewpoints/touch-screen-technology-and-children”>Brain scientist Dr Jordy Kaufman argued that in 2013 there were no scientific studies on the consequences of the use of technological devices by very young children. Research at the Swinburne BabyLab is being undertaken to fill this gap. Kerry Staples an early childhood specialist at the University of Western Sydney, adds:
We need some caution here – to say it’s all down to technological devices and parents’ overuse is too simplistic. Technology holds tremendous potential for young children but interactions between parents and children while using tablets and mobile phones is what I’d like to see more of.
Turn off the devices and talk
In his book Program or Be Programmed Douglas Rushkoff implores us to “not always be on”. Children do learn from TV and from using apps on devices and by using other technologies, but speech, language and social skills are learnt from real interactions with people. Technological devices can be used better, especially with young children.
This article was originally published on The Conversation in March 2014.
Dr Jane Hunter is a lecturer in the School of Education and an early career researcher in the Centre for Educational Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. The subject of her recent book, ‘High Possibility Classrooms’, is outlined in a previous blog post.
The formulation of possible selves through music and singing April 21, 2015Posted by Editor21C in Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: arts education, boys' education, creativity, learning and the brain
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from Sarah Powell
There is a range of research now surrounding the connections between music and the brain and the effect of music on learning. For example, in Australia the work of Anita Collins focuses on what happens in the brain when a person plays a musical instrument. From the UK Sounds of Intent is a project that investigated musical development in children with learning difficulties and subsequently produced resources to support educators.
The work of Kate Stevens, Peter Keller and Barbara Tillman from UWS, and Gary McPherson from the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, University of Melbourne, demonstrates the significant research being undertaken in the area of music and neuroscience. In addition, the recent contribution to this blog from Associate Professor Sue Roffey highlights the reduced emphasis on creativity, critical thinking skills and well being in the new curriculum. Research demonstrates that music (and other arts) has a definite impact on the brain, on learning, on memory, on well being and in the case of my research, identity.
I came from a different perspective in my doctoral research. Rather than using numbers to justify the impact of music and singing, I asked individuals to share their personal stories and because of other research themes (masculinity, success) I focused on males who sang in choirs. So I set out with a different agenda to that of the neuroscience underpinning the research identified above and despite my different angle, it became abundantly clear that music and singing has a profound effect on the identity of an individual.
With this is mind I considered the role of identity from the perspective of possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986). Possible selves are the formulations or descriptions of a future self or selves. They represent desired, expected, or feared future selves, and sometimes a combination of these. The theory argues that a person’s present or current self is not simply defined by their past, but by their perceptions of the future as well.
Possible selves have been described as what a person wants to become, what they expect to become, or what they want to avoid or fear becoming (Cross & Markus, 1994; Freer, 2009, 2010; Markus & Nurius, 1986; Sica, 2009). The past is remembered as positive or negative experiences and whilst these experiences shape the future they do not determine or restrict it. Whilst past experiences cannot be revisited in a physical sense, the associations that are retained as memories remain potent and regulate a person’s desire to pursue or avoid a perceived end point. Strahan and Wilson (2006) suggest that it is not simply the memory of an event or circumstance that has influence. Rather, it is “how the past was recalled” (p.4).
Amongst other things, participants in my research were asked about their past experience of music, particularly during their school years. All were currently involved in music in various capacities and planned to continue in this way or develop their involvement further, and they all described positive school experiences. They identified music and singing as a normal part of their life at home. They had parents and grandparents who enjoyed singing, playing musical instruments or listening to music.
Participants reported enjoying classroom music at school and having numerous opportunities to be in the band or the choir, and many received instrumental tuition at school. Interestingly many participants attributed their present path to their past and their subsequent aspirations for the future. The sense of music and singing being part of the individual was strong:
Singing is quite an intimate thing. You’re revealing a lot about who you are in a sense (Secondary School Choir, Year 12 student).
This attitude was coupled with a very strong enjoyment of singing, communicated by all participants in some way:
I love singing, it’s my favourite thing to do, anywhere any time (Junior School Choir, Year 5 student).
Without question, the ability to produce some beautiful sounds in performance is rewarding, emotionally satisfying (Community Choir, male aged 50+).
The research demonstrated that the identity of these participants was built on family background and traditions, grounding them in something bigger than themselves but still intimately connected. It contributed to self-confidence and healthy self-perception in the here-and-now and it provided an outlet for personal expression and spirituality. It provided purpose and direction for the future, offering choices and opportunities for career and pleasure. It also gave them meaningful spaces to work collaboratively and creatively and to develop deep friendships.
Not only is neuroscience proving that music impacts the brain and learning in positive ways, but people are revealing that music and singing is an integral part of how they define themselves. It has significant ramifications for the formation of identity as well as personal well being and must be part of a child’s education. I will conclude by mentioning the work of Sir Richard Gill who continues to advocate the necessity of providing quality music education to every child, arguing that the impact of arts education is broader than simply teaching music:
The very things that promote literacy and numeracy are the arts, beginning with serious arts education in the early years. If we want a creative nation, an imaginative nation, a thinking nation and a nation of individuals, then we must increase the time for arts education, especially music education. If we want a nation of non-imaginative robots who can do tests, then we are well on the way to achieving that condition (Richard Gill’s Blog, 2011).
Cross, S. E. & Markus, H. R. (1994). Self-schemas, possible selves, and competent performance. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86(3), 423-438. DOI: 10.1037/0022-0622.214.171.1243
Freer, P. K. (2009). ‘I’ll sing with my buddies’ – Fostering the possible selves of male choral singers. International Journal of Music Education, 27(4), 341-355. DOI: 10.1177/0255761409345918
Freer, P. K. (2010). Two decades of research on possible selves and the ‘missing males’ problem in choral music. International Journal of Music Education, 28(1), 17-30. DOI: 10.1177/0255761409351341
Markus, H. & Nurius, P. (1986). Possible selves. American Psychologist, 41(9), 954-969. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.41.9.954
Sica, L. S. (2009). Adolescents in different contexts: The exploration of identity through possible selves. Cognition, Brain, Behavior: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 13(3), 221-252.
Strahan, E. J. & Wilson, E. (2006). Temporal comparisons, identity, and motivation: The relation between past, present, and possible future selves. In C. Dunkel & J. Kerpelman, Possible selves: Theory, research and application (pp.1-15). New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc.
Sarah Powell is Education Content Manager at Musica Viva Australia. She is also a sessional academic in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, and a UWS doctoral candidate whose thesis is currently under examination.