The following letter was provided to legislators in a hearing. Please call in support before the February 2, 2022, deadline!
Through grade 12, our state standards require public school students utilize technology in nearly every subject in addition to media and computer science digital requirements.
Massachusetts has a Pre-K educational writing standard requiring pre-kindergarteners use digital tools to convey messages. Why demand technology use in Pre-K when students can barely spell?
Doctors even report early technology use is interfering with motor skills and the ability to hold a pencil.
A Stanford study reports 1 in 8 adults report difficulty remaining offline, showing compulsive attachment to cyberspace such as with chat rooms, blog entries, emails, etc. If adults have trouble, why are we habituating preschoolers?
Providing technology education makes sense if circumscribed to be age appropriate and taught in specialized courses on computer programming and useful software. However, cross-curriculum mandates and performance reviews on the basis of “innovative” or chronic use of technology take time away from other subject matter and undermine sensible technology programming and reasonable limits.
Two types of technology are entering our schools, one that replaces traditional learning with virtual education, and another that simply adds technology tools.
Limits are needed on all technology to protect students from problems attached to excessive technology use, such as addiction, obesity, depression, cyber-bullying, marketing, and loss of privacy.
Limits are needed because virtual education is already highly attractive to communities because it can be cheap, well marketed, and effort and accountability can be outsourced. Accountability pressures are intense, including requirements for data and tying daily curriculum to hundreds of specific educational standards. Outside financial interests, including in data collection, mean that grants are provided with harmful strings (often to encourage more technology).
Programmed virtual education often lacks oversight and undermines local academic freedom, for often programs are set in stone and content only available to students.
The screen time bill (H. 106) sponsored by Representative Patricia Duffy (and prepared by Kirstin Beatty, director of Last Tree Laws) was put forward to encourage local school authorities to set screen time limits through a public hearing. A template is provided which can be adapted except for some baseline limits. Baseline limits for grades 10-12 are 120 minutes daily, for grade 8 are 90 minutes daily, and below grade 8 no more than 5 hours monthly. Exceptions are allowed in special cases, including for virtual schools.
These baseline limits exist to protect students from financial and other pressures pushing for screen time despite evidence of academic and social harm. For example, the Organisation for Co-Operation and Development, funded by 34 countries, in 2015 released a study finding that just viewing emails beyond once or twice a week negatively impacted reading skills. Ample research indicates technology is harmful to learning.
This is all the more heart-breaking when considering that the DC federal district court just ruled that federal wireless and RF exposure guidelines are arbitrary and fails to weigh current research, in particular with regard to children and pregnant women and including neurological effects.
By moving this legislation forward, the committee will make an important statement to the public and educational leaders that Massachusetts that our youth are too important to allow technology interests to take over our educational system.
Rights of the Child
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Hill, A (2018 Feb 25) Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say: children need opportunities to develop hand strength and dexterity needed to hold pencils. The Guardian. Available at
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CNBC (2018 Jan 8) Apple should address youth phone addiction, two large investors [Jane Partners and California State Teachers’ Retirement System] say.
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Bowles, N. (2016 Oct 26) The digital gap between rich and poor kids is not what we expected: America’s public schools are still promoting devices with screens—even offering digital-only preschools. The rich are banning screens from class altogether. The New York Times. Available July 14 at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/26/style/digital-divide-screens-schools.html
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Social Emotional Development
Ravitch, D (2015 Dec 7) District Adopts Federally-Endorsed Tech Product, and It Bores the Kids to Tears. Diane Ravitch’s Blog. Online July 14 2019 at https://dianeravitch.net/2015/12/07/district-adopts-federally-endorsed-tech-product-and-it-bores-the-kids-to-tears/
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DC Court decision affirming FCC guidelines are ‘arbitrary and capricious’ – https://childrenshealthdefense.org/wp-content/uploads/chd-v-fcc-we-won-decision.pdf
Several research studies reviewing the wireless in schools are reviewed at the Environmental Health Trust online at: https://ehtrust.org/peer-reviewed-research-studies-on-wi-fi/
Deshmukh PS, Nasare N, Megha K, Banerjee BD, Ahmed RS, Singh D, Abegaonkar MP, Tripathi AK, Mediratta PK
(2015) Cognitive impairment and neurogenotoxic effects in rats exposed to low-intensity microwave radiation. Int J
Toxicol. 34 (3): 284-290. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25749756
Digital Learning: Personalized Learning. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Available
July 14 2019 at http://www.doe.mass.edu/odl/personalized.html
Note: Currently, mandates for technology use by teachers, administrators, and superintendents are enforced by state performance rubrics and also promoted by the resources or grants available through the state Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech Consortium (MAPLE) and the New England Secondary Schools Consortium (NESSC)].
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Philanthropist and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: Agreement Includes $10 Million R&D Investment and Newly Appointed Board Members: Company Poised for Accelerated Growth as Leading Innovator of Effective E-Learning in the Classroom. Dreambox Learning. Available July 14 2019 at http://www.dreambox.com/press-release-20100420
Anonymous Guest Post (2016 Jan 26) 21st Century Learning? Or 21st Century Profiteering? [Conflict of interest of school adminsitrators] Educational Alchemy Blog by Morna McDermott. Available July 14 2019 at https://educationalchemy.com/2016/01/26/21st-century-learning-or-21st-century-profiteering/
Ravitch, D. Executive Salaries at K12, Inc. [Chairman and CEO made 4.2 million in 2014]. Diane Ravitch’s Blog. Available online July 14 2019 at https://dianeravitch.net/category/on-line-education/
Kharpal A (2016 Jun 30) A $19 trillion ‘digital revolution’ is coming and the US is lagging: Cisco’s Chambers. CNBC. Available online 2019 Jun 14 at https://www.cnbc.com/2016/06/30/a-19-trillion-digital-revolution-is-coming-and-the-us-is-lagging-cisco-john-chambers-viva-tech.html
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