It’s normal to expect children to pay attention and learn good behavior. It’s part of growing up. But self-regulatory learning (SRL) forced on children so they will be computer learners is a different story.
Why is there such a drive to make children more independent and self-sufficient?
How is it justifiable to push students to have increased self-control—beyond what has been expected in the past—what is appropriate for their age and development?
Whether it’s mindfulness, direct instruction, or social-emotional learning, SRL is a hot topic. It’s everywhere!
The drive is to get children on tech devices to do schoolwork. The goal is for them to be able to sit still, concentrate, and learn on their own, at home, or in the classroom with no human assistance.
You cannot sell parents on taking their children out of school and sticking them on the computer if they have to teach their kids all the work.
Just as you can’t get rid of teachers in large charter warehouses if children are not engaged, or if they can’t behave and sit still long enough to learn the subject on the screen.
Students need to control their behavior to use the computer. They need to be able to teach themselves.
The problem, however, is that children don’t naturally develop this way.
The NOVA PBS special School of the Future hinted at this. They showed brain experiments to get children and teens to pay closer attention in school. Students were to concentrate closely on learning independently.
It was especially striking on the program, not in a good way, to see a child have his head hooked to wires to monitor his ability to attend when presented with distractions. The idea was that with certain brain exercises children will focus better than they have ever focused before.
From the website Mindshift:
Helping kids develop strategies like self-regulation will allow them to use their own initiative and to direct themselves — without adult supervision. A good self-regulator will pay attention to tasks, persist when it becomes difficult, demonstrate flexibility, and be confident that more effort will lead to positive outcomes. As educators move towards using digital media to teach, and we rely more on children’s independent initiative and motivation, it’s important to develop kids’ learning strategies so they stay on topic while they use these tools.
This push to be “computer ready” has been going on for a long time. Here is the abstract from a 2001 paper titled “Self-regulation and computer based learning,” by Karl Steffens out of the University of Cologne.
In recent years, interest in self-regulated learning has risen considerably. While self-regulatory activities are controlled cognitively, they encompass more than the monitoring of cognitive activities. Motivational and emotional processes are also important in learning and they too need to be regulated. At the same time, multimedia computer programs and the Internet have come to play an important role in present day’s learning environments. The question therefore arises as to what extent these new technologies facilitate the acquisition and improvement of self-regulated learning strategies.
I was going to provide links to other articles, but there are many. All one has to do is type “self-regulation learning” and “computers” on Google, and you will have enough reading on this topic to keep you busy for a long time.
Teachers are encouraged to purchase books like:
Calm, Alert and Learning: Classrooms Strategies for Self-Regulation by Stuart Shanker (Pearson).
Doesn’t this sound great? What teacher doesn’t want a well-behaved class? But how much of this is pushing children to work alone on their computers?
Here is an example to demonstrate inappropriate SRL according to child development.
All who have raised children will remember the feeling of freedom when their babies began using finger foods to feed themselves. It is an independence milestone. A cleaning crew may have been required afterwards, but for 15-20 minutes you could enjoy eating your own meal.
But you would never have put in baby’s hands a knife and fork. You would not have placed on their highchair tray a piece of your finest china. Babies don’t have self-regulatory behavior to be able to eat like polite adults. They aren’t developmentally equipped for that. As they grow, if they are developing normally, they will learn to eat on their own and develop a host of other self-regulatory behaviors. They will look and act more adult-like.
Pushing extreme self-regulatory behavior on children to get them to work alone on the computer is just as bizarre. Students deserve the right to have time to be children and develop behaviors within normal parameters.
Our children and schools are not meant for such experimentation! We don’t know the long-term ramifications of too much self-regulatory behavior and computer learning.
Tech enthusiasts need to back off. The next thing you know, they will be making babies eat with china.