PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 72 ~ December 2015
by Dolores G. Hiskes

PHONICS-TALK—The Dorbooks Newsletter
December 2015 - Volume 72
By Dolores G. Hiskes



(Adapted from an article by Launa Hall, third-grade teacher, December 2, Washington Post)


I placed an iPad into the outstretched hands of each of my third-grade
students, and a reverent, tech-induced hush descended on our classroom.
I watched them cradle the sleek devices in their arms. They flashed their
gap-toothed grins — not at each other but at their shining screens.

Some adult ears might welcome a room of hushed 8-year-olds, but
teachers of young children know that the chatter in a typical elementary
classroom is what makes it a good place to learn. Yes, it’s sometimes
too loud. They are often hurting someone’s feelings or getting hurt, or
completely missing the point.

They need time to learn and develop communication skills — how to hold
your own and how to get along with others. They need to talk and listen and
talk some more at school, both with peers and with adults who can model
conversation skills.

The iPads subtly undermined that important work. My lively little kids
stopped talking and adopted the bent-neck, plugged-in posture of tap,
tap, swipe. The money was spent, and the iPads were happening.

These things sucked instructional time. This at a school serving many
students new to English or otherwise behind in their communication skills.
They couldn’t afford to lose a single minute of learning.

Veteran teachers of tablet-friendly classrooms mention how tablets can
help teachers tailor lessons to each child, or how they can provide an
instant snapshot into whether a child understood a concept. They talk
about apps that connect classmates to one another and to students across
the globe, that foster creativity and a sense of newness that makes over a
stale classroom.

Those early-adopter teachers are right: Tablets are portals to a million
possibilities. Even with my rookie stumbles, my students did wonderful
things. They recorded themselves explaining math problems; they produced
movies about explorers, complete with soundtracks. I recorded mini-lessons
for my students to watch at home, so we could *flip our classroom* and
discuss the information in small groups the next day. And I knew we were
just getting started.

But did the benefits offset what was lost?

Sherry Turkle, the author of *Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk
in a Digital Age,* writes about how we are sacrificing connections, one quick
check of our screens at a time. Her research finds that college students *are
having a hard time with the give-and-take of face-to-face conversation.*

One of my saddest days in my digital classroom was when the children
rushed in from the lunchroom one rainy recess and dashed for their iPads.
*Wait, I implored, we play with Legos on rainy days!* I dumped out the huge
container of Legos that were pure magic just a couple of weeks ago, that
prompted so much collaboration and conversation, but the delight was gone.
My students looked at me with disdain. We aren’t kids who just play anymore,
their crossed arms implied. We’re tech-savvy. Later, when I allowed their
devices to hum to glowing life, conversation shut down altogether.

Districts all over the country are buying into one-to-one tablet initiatives,
and for younger and younger students. These screens have been rebranded
*digital learning devices,* carrying the promise of education success for
millions of our communities’ education dollars. Yet there is evidence that
tablets can be detrimental to learning.

A study released in September by the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development looked at school tech initiatives in more than three dozen
countries and found that while students who use computers moderately show
modest gains, heavy technology use has a negative impact. *Students who use
computers very frequently at school do a lot worse in most learning outcomes,
even after accounting for social background and student demographics,*
the report concluded.

Jumping from the *sage on the stage* teaching model to a screen for each kid
skips over critical territory in between, where children learn from, and build their
social skills with, one another. Teachers believe that if our dining tables should
be protected for in-depth discussion and focused attention, so, too, should our

Digital-savvy parents in Silicon Valley made news way back in 2011 for enrolling
their children in steadfastly screen-free schools. They knew that their kids would
be swiping and clicking soon enough, but there are only a limited number of
childhood years when it’s not only really fun to build with Legos, it’s also really
good for you. It teaches communication skills and builds connections with other

And by the way, isn’t that what we want for our poor ever-shrinking world as well—
adults with good communication skills, who think clearly, and are able to have
finely tuned in-depth conversations with others?




Language is the amber in which a thousand precious and subtle thoughts have
been safely embedded and preserved.




And so we come to another Holiday Season. There are some things that make
life just so important to us, like beloved people we are close to and cherished
memories from our past.

And so, we keep them close and remember them especially at this time of year.
We are grateful for them, as I am grateful to you, my dear customers. I send you
my love and warmest wishes. And remember: the darker the world, the brighter
your own light will shine!

With blessings and hope for the New Year,

copyright Dolores G. Hiskes December 2015


Copyright Dolores G. Hiskes 2016
May be reprinted in entirety with reference to author




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