Sandra Rodrigues is a preschool and primary teacher at Colégio Franciscano Pio XII in São Paulo, Brazil. She has been teaching for 15 years and has also given teacher training for OUP Brazil. She wrote the article “How to work with values” for Stars, the 5 level OUP course especially developed for Brazilian students and teachers. Sandra is the director of Smart Learning Brazil, developing materials and strategies for affective learning projects. She also has her own website www.smartlearningbrazil.com and daily posts on www.facebook.com/smartlearningbrazil
First of all I would like to make one thing quite clear, I love technology. I’m the type of person who loses track of time texting friends or discovering new apps. As a teacher, I can’t remember the last time I planned a class without previously checking what is available online: stories, videos, songs….everything! As my students say, internet and technology are our BFF (best friends forever)! However, it seems that some experts in technology are coming into our schools and neglecting our students’ best richness: the power of their imagination.
Recently I attended an international conference on the use of technology in education in São Paulo, Brazil.In this conference, writers, publishers, editors and educators were all discussing, among other things, the end of printable books and the shift towards e-books.
The funny and sad fact is that they were discussing this change in a country where people usually read only four books a year. A country where most of the schools still don’t provide decent library facilities for their students. Fine, that’s “OK”, I’m not going to discuss Brazil’s education policy, not here and not now, but it is something to think about!
Back to the conference. At one point, experts started listing all the advantages of using different apps or software in the classroom. They demonstrated lots of interactive e-books where children are encouraged to change the stories, modify the weather, change the characters’ clothes and other “ACT- tivities”. In all honesty, I felt like grabbing my bag and leaving when one of them demonstrated an e-book explaining “on this page, children can even pick the fruits off a blackberry bush”. I was shocked. I didn’t leave the room and decided to stay but my brain was not able to focus on the debate anymore.
At that point, I started to ask myself questions about the amount of online input children are receiving and jotted down some of the ideas below:
Does this shift to online ‘experiences’ influence why it is so common to see some children who are afraid of climbing trees in the park? How can children build their self confidence to reach the top of a small tree if they don’t even ride their bikes or play outside anymore?
Is this change behind why kids today can use any kind of Smartphone placed in their hands but, on the other hand, they can’t tie their shoelaces or, even worse, they don’t know their own address or telephone number? When I ask children what their phone number is they reply, “My phone knows teacher.”
What about their toys? Elaborate castles, dolls that cry, talk, eat and sing, remote control cars and airplanes are oftentimes their prized possessions. But, why can’t a castle be made out of bed sheets and chairs anymore? How can we, teachers and parents, expect our children to write creatively and use their imaginations if they are not using their brains to play with other kids or by themselves? What might technology be doing to our children’s imagination?
Where are those days we could listen to a story and have the freedom to imagine the characters the way we liked it? Remember that old saying, “never judge a book by its movie”? Well, it is clear that nothing can be compared to the power of our imagination. Quentin Tarantino is great, but try to imagine his mind-blowing stories in a book. Wouldn’t that be truly amazing? Of course, every child/adult had their own Harry Potter image while reading those fantasy books but, after watching the first film, the image of the character of Harry Potter is the same boy for everybody. As thousands of woman around the world, I also have a private Christian Grey picture in my mind, however, I am going to do myself a favour and I won’t watch that film this year. Let me be free for a little while longer to imagine the characters in my own way!
Please technology experts, I beg of you, stay away from my students. Let them be free! I want to keep telling stories to my pupils in the dark or by candlelight, I want them to close their eyes and imagine they are walking in a forest…feeling the wind blowing their hair…smelling nature. I want them to imagine they are touching a blackberry bush…I want to keep providing details to make their mouths water and to let their imaginations run wild!
Unfortunately, nowadays, I see that some children have no idea what I am talking about. Some children are miserably “living” storytelling and their own lives through their fingertips on a tablet.
What do you think? How is technology having an impact on imagination and creativity?
Thanks to Sandra for sharing her ideas and insights with us again!