The Seoul Of It All

At the end of last week I flew to Seoul, Korea to spend two PD days with educators at Seoul Foreign School (SFS). SFS, like so many other international schools in Asia are in the midst of rolling out their 1:1 program. This year their 5th adn 6th graders are in the program and next year they will be expanding that upwards through the grade levels as they continue the role out. 

It was a fun two days filled with conversations and ideas. I met with math teachers on the second day and promptly stole everything that Dan Meyer has to offer (Thanks Dan!).  

I also met with the primary teachers who teach 3-5 year olds. I had my hardest time talking technology with this group of educators. I believe what the brain research is telling us in that this age group should be spending as little time in front of computers as possible. The TED talk below is a good place to start and talks about how to develop the language center in the brain you can’t substitute computers for human contact.

I’m not sure it’s a good move for a consultant who is brought in to champion tech to say….you shouldn’t be using very much. I do think limited exposure isn’t a bad thing, but the key word there is limited. I still want these kids playing with blocks and with each other.

In the end it was great to spend time at a fantastic school who like the rest of big schools in Asia are asking big questions, innovating at every turn, and taking a risk on what the future of education might be. 

6 Comments

  1. Okay so I think this is the first time I have read an entry by you (love the name of the post btw) and gone hmm…I am not sure I agree with your message about tech and 3-5 year olds. I agree with the brain research that kids should have lots of opportunities to develop their language and social skills (things that they can not truly do without interacting with others). As both an early years educator and a mom of 2 kids who fall in this age bracket I agree with you that its still very important for children to use blocks, play-dough, paints, puzzles and lots of other hands-on manipulatives. Yet there is so much that kids in this age can do and learn by using carefully monitored tech that would not have been possible without the use of tech (even if they are new ways of doing old things- the new ways are much more effective-which I believe is one of the ‘goals’ of technology) that I felt disappointed when I read that you were ‘championing’ for limited usage of technology in the Preschool/PreK grades. Due to budget constrains it always feels like an uphill battle to get any sort of tech in these grades -it would be a shame for a teacher to hear your voice being used to support this practice.

    • Hi Aroma,

      Thanks for your feedback and I get where you’re coming from. I’m struggling with all of this at the moment. As I think good use of technology that is focused for this age group is a great thing. However, what I’m seeing in most classrooms is not that….and outside of classrooms, at home even more. I’m seeing technology being used as a babysitter in many homes and in some classrooms as well. If the learning through technology is focused, then I’m all for it. Maybe what I need is to see great teachers like you show me how it can be used effectively in the in classroom. I so want to change my mind on this….I just need some teachers to show me some really good uses of it in the classroom. Playing “Fruit Ninja” on in iPad isn’t, in my mind, a good use of technology in the primary grades…yet these are the types of things I’m seeing. So help me! Show me! I’m willing to change I just need those good uses to stand on.

      • I think we need to you to change your mind on this one : -)

        I totally agree with you that technology when used as a babysitter is a BAD, BAD thing- but that is the case for all age groups -not just the 3-5 years. Which is why its all the more important that people such as yourself who have taken a lead in this field help guide us in how to use technology effectively -even with the little ones. Its harder in some ways because they can not blog, they can not research on their own, they can not ..the list goes on. Its hard (and I do not have the answers at all) but perhaps the lens to look through is what is it that these kids CAN DO with technology (and I don’t mean Fruit Ninja)? At this age range does using technology to do old things but in a lot more engaging manner make it an ‘effective’ use of technology?

    • The funny thing I thought about near the end of the TED talk was the movie “Superman”. Krypton is crumbling and Superman’s parents put him it that spiky giant egg and launch him towards earth. The movie shows little baby superman receiving all his instruction during the long journey through audio recordings… But according to this research the little guy would have learned almost nothing in this time because there was no real human interaction.

      Now back to reality. Being a kindergarten teacher I can see the benefit my students receive from using technology. I have seen them improve in phonics and alphabet recognition. So, yes they still need to run and play and build their fine and gross motor skills. But don’t count those 5 year olds out to quickly Jeff ;-)

      • How true James. I am finding the same thing in my class of Preschoolers and Pre-Ks.

  2. What a small world! My wife and I sat down with John Engstrom in San Francisco a few weeks ago. What a great guy. He was extremely interested in tech PD and he certainly went and got himself top notch training by going to you. It amazes me when stuff like this pops up in my Google Reader.

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