Press release *** For immediate release: August 22, 2016
Contact: Laura Bowman, PAA-Roanoke Valley: 540-819-6385
Julie Woestehoff, PAA interim executive director: 773-715-3989
Our Children @ Risk
Parents raise alarm about EdTech’s harmful effects on children’s academic, intellectual, emotional,
physical and social development
Echoing the 1983 “Nation at Risk” report, Parents Across America (PAA) today declares, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the takeover of public education by digital technology that threatens our children’s health and well-being, captures their private data, and undermines the best elements of their education, we might well view it as an act of war.”
PAA has spent extensive time looking into recent writing and research that raise red flags about the impact of the EdTech explosion on our children. This high-pressure movement has brought a mishmash of digital devices and online and other pre-packaged programs into our schools, where they are promoted as “personalized,” “competency-based,” “student-centered,” or “self-directed” learning, terms which we refer to together as EdTech.
Today, PAA released a position paper and a series of reports, including a 35-page background paper, detailing some of the many threats to children’s health and well-being, parental control, family privacy, and the quality of teaching and learning by this latest effort of corporate reformers to profit from our children’s education and undermine democratic public schooling.
PAA’s executive director, Julie Woestehoff, explains, “What we have found out about the EdTech push alarms us, and should alarm any parent. First of all, there is actually very little research addressing the many news ways that EdTech is being used in our schools — our children are truly being used as guinea pigs. What we do know about children and screen time is based in part on new studies and in part on previous research into children’s use of television, video games and computers, which can help us anticipate some of EdTech’s health effects. And EdTech’s teaching and learning track record is not positive. Yet corporate reformers and the new federal education law, the Every Child Succeeds Act, or ESSA, are investing heavily in EdTech and increasingly pressuring its widespread use.”
Leader of PAA’s chapter in Roanoke, VA, Laura Bowman, says, “We are speaking out for balanced, healthy classrooms for our children. We strongly oppose the push to increase student screen time, replace teachers with packaged lessons delivered by digital devices, and continuously test students, data-mining the results. We are very concerned that the massive and growing use of EdTech is displacing valuable elements of schooling without providing clear benefits, and threatening our children’s right to a healthy and educationally-appropriate school environment.”
PAA is not against the appropriate use of technology in schools. Just as the group opposes standardized test misuse and not the tests themselves, they challenge technology use that reduces schooling to a data-mining computer game, and not technology itself. We know that our children need to master technology, and we acknowledge that parents must work harder to monitor their children’s use of technology at home. But we also strongly feel that schools, school districts and states must become far more cautious, diligent, transparent and accountable about their technology decisions.
PAA believes that, in the face of strong pressure from the parental opt-out movement, and criticism that the misuse and overuse of standardized tests harms children and their education, corporate reformers and “Big Testing” have changed their tactics.
These education profiteers are promoting even more lucrative testing and teaching strategies, mostly tied to the Common Core State Standards and the PARCC or SBAC national tests.
These products help Big Testing continue to control the curriculum and access vast amounts of student data. Meanwhile, students are spending increasing hours glued to computer screens and other digital devices which leaves less time for interacting with other children, adults or their own imaginations, and exposes them to new dangers.
We have prepared a set of informational materials for parents covering PAA’s specific concerns about EdTech’s:
harmful effects on children’s mental and emotional development,
negative impact on student intellectual and academic growth,
damaging physical effects,
depersonalization and other ways of undermining the educational process,
questionable value and effectiveness,
continuous testing of students, often without obtaining consent from or even informing students or parents,
threats to student data privacy, and
hugely lucrative benefits for private companies.
Parents must be alerted to these potential risks, and be prepared to challenge and, if necessary, opt out of school-based technology that may be harmful to our children.
Based on these and other concerns, we call on legislators and education policy makers to consider our list of recommendations found here.