Leadership magazine March/April 2019 V48 No. 4 - Page 23

outs were replaced with Nearpod interac- tive presentations, and vocabulary lessons were uploaded to Quizlet and available to students through smartphone and tablet apps. Student scores were easily down- loaded from these sites and transferred to my gradebook, greatly reducing my work- load and increasing teaching efficiency. For a time, it seemed that there was absolutely no downside to this technological revolu- tion, and I embraced its rapid progression. Unfortunately, the digital age delivered a swift, yet massive, epistemological shift, driven in part by the Common Core State Standards and Smarter Balanced Assess- ment Consortium. Although nearly every district in the country would suggest other- wise, justifying the massive expense of digi- tal integration, it has become increasingly apparent that this change might actually be detrimental to the education of our students, and perhaps, to their mental and physical health as well. The classroom has been dramatically transformed and, indeed, students have changed along with it. W hat is most frightening is that it seems no one has paused to ask if this is actually a beneficial change, especially to the digitally aroused developing brain. Navigating the shallows: Brains at the end of their arms The current group of sixth graders, born mostly in 2005, are the first kids who grew up completely inundated with the imme- diacy of digital “infotainment.” The iPhone was introduced just in time, and just the right size, for mom and dad to quickly place it in their 2-year-old’s hands to help quiet a tantrum, sooth a scraped knee, or lull them to sleep at naptime. This is the first group of kids, perpetually overstimulated by the ubiquity of electronic screens, that have never learned to become a captive to their own imagination. Many of these kids have never been bored. I started noticing a distinct change in my students in just the last few years, and I believe it closely parallels most districts’ Chromebook/iPad adoptions, coupled with the pervasiveness of smartphones. Our sys- tem is rapidly changing from educating chil- In less than four years, my classroom has been transformed into a veritable digital paradise. dren most efficiently with proven pedagogy, to presenting interactive digital kibble dis- guised as deep work. Previous generations were expected to memorize “The Preamble to the U.S. Con- stitution” or the “Bill of Rights,” repeat- edly write vocabulary words until com- mitted to long-term memory, and strictly read and follow the directions for a chem- istry lab. Chromebooks and smartphones allow students the freedom to use Google as a replacement for rote memorization, spellcheck instead of repetitive practice, and YouTube as a substitute for didactic reading. This degenerative habit greatly restricts the depth of students’ education and, more important, could alter their abil- ity to focus and learn. Bloom’s taxonomy. Step one: Remember Since the adoption of Common Core State Standards, numerous education ex- perts and administrators have argued that memorization is no longer a valid instruc- tional tool – even though it’s impossible to graduate medical school or earn a law degree without well-honed memorization skills. Yet, research on neuroplasticity contradicts their assumptions. Brain researchers have found that “the more times an experience is repeated, the longer the memory of the ex- perience lasts.” Repetition encourages consolidation. In 1970, when noted neurophysiologist Eric Kandel and his team examined the effects of repetition on individual neurons and synapses, they discovered something amaz- ing. Not only did the concentration of neu- rotransmitters in synapses change, altering the strength of the existing connections between neurons, but the neurons grew en- tirely new synaptic terminals. The forma- tion of long-term memories, in other words, involves not only biochemical changes but anatomical” (Carr, p. 184). On the surface, removing rote memori- zation from curricular expectations, or at least reducing the reliance on memorization, seems justified in today’s technologically omnipresent era. After all, children have access to this information on tablets and smartphones almost as fast as they could re- call it from memory. This shallow habit not March | April 2019 23