David Monahan, CCFC (email@example.com; 617-896-9397)
Advocates Release ‘Screens in Schools Action Kit’ to Help Parents Push Back Against Edtech Overuse
The free resource from the Children’s Screen Time Action Network will help parents advocate for less device use and more hands-on learning in schools
BOSTON, MA —February 10, 2020—Today, the Children’s Screen Time Action Network released the Screens in Schools Action Kit to help parents and educators address the overuse of educational technologies in schools. The Action Kit is a product of a grassroots movement challenging Silicon Valley myths that tech is a panacea for all that ails our educational system, and that “personalized learning” is better delivered by software and algorithms than highly skilled educators. The Children’s Screen Time Action Network is a project of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
“When it comes to demanding what is best for our children in schools, no voices ring louder and carry more weight than those belonging to parents,” said Joe Clement, award-winning teacher and author of Screen Schooled. “Educated, involved parents are the first and best line of defense for our children. Those who want to make a difference can use the practical, convenient resources laid out in this Action Kit to educate and involve as many parents, educators and decision makers as possible. Working together, we can give our kids a healthier, happier future.”
Parents’ and educators’ concerns about Big Tech’s infiltration of public education in the U.S. cover a range of issues, including the social-emotional effects on children’s development; the invasion of kids’ privacy; harmful physical impacts from the overuse of screens and digital devices; displacement of hands-on and peer-to-peer collaborative learning; exposure to marketing and materialism; the gamification of learning; and the deprofessionalization of teaching.
The Action Kit’s authors are all members of the Action Network’s Screens in Schools Work Group, and many of them are educators or parents who have been working with their own districts to limit screen time. The work group members created the Action Kit to help others follow in their footsteps.
“I began advocating for more balanced screen use in our school district with a small group of concerned parents four and a half years ago, and I’m thrilled we’re having a national conversation about the impact of screen use on development and learning,” said contributing Network member Katie Talarico, teacher, parent, and advocate in the Upper St. Clair, PA School District. “This Action Kit makes a large problem seem more manageable, and has made solutions seem within reach! I know this resource will help parents, teachers, and administrators work together to create the best possible 21st century education for our children.”
“It’s incredibly powerful that an all-volunteer work group of parents and educators have created a resource not only to advocate in their own districts, but to help anyone and everyone rein in the edtech takeover,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director of CCFC. “That’s how change happens.”
The explosion of edtech in schools is thanks in large part to calculated marketing. The edtech industry has followed the Big Pharma playbook by wining and dining school officials, and capitalizing on the underfunding of public education to sell their own products. But research suggests adding more tech does not necessarily improve learning. A study by the National Education Policy Center on Personalized Learning and Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching concluded that philanthropic funds are boosting the proliferation of digital curriculum and devices despite serious concerns about device use. An Education Week Special Report found that educational dollars are better spent on professional development and smaller class sizes, and that most teachers feel “personalized learning” has failed to define benefits and consider risks.
“As a recently retired teacher I could see the ways that the digital culture was affecting my students’ attention and readiness to learn,” said Seth Evans, Chair of the Screens in Schools Work Group, who produced the kit. “This Action Kit will provide tools for educators with similar concerns to talk to colleagues and teachers’ unions, administrators, parents, and students about their concerns regarding the overuse of screens.”
“Many parents are beginning to understand the risks of excessive screen use at home and are setting limits, but then feel their efforts are being sabotaged by overuse of tech in schools,” said Jean Rogers, director of Screen Time programs at CCFC and leader of the Action Network. “While creating the toolkit, we heard from parents concerned that their children were on screens for many hours during the school day and then required to do homework on them in the evening. Health, privacy, and exposure to advertising are among the top worries, and opting out has been a difficult and lonely road.”
“Many parents and teachers are concerned about children’s use of digital technology in schools but are at a loss for what to do about it,” said Network member Faith Boninger, Co-Director of the Commercialism in Education Research Unit of the National Education Policy Center. “This Action Kit provides resources to help them address their concerns with their schools and districts. It also lets them know that they’re not alone in their doubts about the value of digital educational programs.”