December 1, 2010

ISTE SIGML comments on NYT article

Posted by Dr. Laura Guertin

I’m a member of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education).  Their SIGML (Mobile Learning Special Interest Group) recently sent out this message in response to a recent article in the New York Times titled “Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction.”  This is not the first or last time we’ll see this discussion in the media….


Front page of the New York Times – above the fold, smack dab in the center of the paper, an article proclaims: Technology is a distraction for students; the constant interaction with technology – facilitated by mobile technologies, of course – is addictive and the young people do not have the self-control to manage their “technology habit.”


A Latin teacher calls technology a “catastrophe” since his advanced Latin class has become under-subscribed. Memo to that Latin teacher: stop blaming the technology; and starting blaming your unchanging teaching style that in effect, disses the kids: by insisting on using the (same) old way of teaching you are telling the kids that their new way of learning is bad, is wrong – but the kids know that their way of learning isn’t bad, isn’t wrong. Upshot: kids ignore the Latin teacher.

The scurrilous nature of the NYT’s attack – the article quoted only experts who were negative about  technology use, deleterious references poured out, fire hose style, while the positive impacts of the technology on the students’ lives were doled out with a nano-sized eye-dropper – reminded me of the old attacks on that other perverter of our children, killer marijuana. 

The tone of the NYT’s article was one of blame – our young people aren’t focusing on their studies; bad children! Excuse me, but the blame is on the adults for not stepping up to their responsibility of educating the children in how to be better time managers. And by adults I don’t mean just the classroom teachers – we ALL need to be involved in educating our children… it takes a village.. at least.

Memo to the NYT’s journalist: there is no going back to pencil and paper; mobile technologies are here to stay. We adults, we educators need to step up to the plate and help our children become responsible technology users. But, sadly, such a logical and obvious suggestion wouldn’t warrant a front page spread in the New York Times.


Thank you for your time,

Elliot Soloway, soloway at

ISTE SIGML  Chair & Grand PoohBAH