Monthly Archives: January 2013

Computer Dependency

 

Can we be addicted to a computer? No, I don’t think we can. Addict is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “One who is addicted to the habitual and excessive use of a drug.” A computer is not a drug, so in fact I would tend to say that we can be dependent on what the computer offers us. Shotton (1989) spoke at great lengths about the misuse of the word addict or addiction in the context of computers. She concluded that the most appropriate word to use was dependency or its other forms. Dependency was explained to mean that there was a strong, compelling desire to do something. As the world grows and the influence technology has increases, we can expect to see more children becoming dependent on their computers. There is nothing wrong with using a computer or technology in fact it makes our lives a lot easier in many ways. However it is when someone becomes obsessed with something a computer can offer them that problems occur.

The use of technology in our everyday lives has increased dramatically, according to the Office for National Statistics, 77 per cent of UK households have a home computer. This means that over three quarters of the population have the potential to become dependent on the computers found in their homes. over the last few days it was stated on Sky News (2013) that the average cost of raising a child has rocketed to £222,000, with one of the main reasons for this being children’s desire for technology such as laptops and tablets. The big question is why do people become dependent on computers or what they offer? There are many reasons to why people become dependent on computers, allowing them to become a major part of their lives. One reason may be a problematic family or social life. Many people find computers as a form of escapism. They are able to forget the real world for a while and immerse themselves in the fictional world portrayed in a game or website. Research conducted by Shotton (1989) showed that the majority of the people considered to be dependent on their computers had in fact family troubles. They had experienced negative relationships with either one or both parents. In addition to this she found that although not all of these people came from cold environments in terms of their household they did often have neglecting parents. Considering the social life of those dependent on computers, it was found that they were object based people. Dependents spoke about how they felt “alien” from their peers and it could in fact be this feeling of isolation that has driven people to seek comfort or acceptance from their computer.

There are several different types of computer dependents, defined by why they are dependent on their computers. There are those that are networkers, people who use their computer to be social. Website such as Facebook and Twitter have dominated the internet in recent years and in some cases the lives of children. Although it is technically illegal for anyone under the age of thirteen to have a Facebook account, research shows that in fact a consumer reports survey showed that as many as 7.5 million Facebook users are under 13, and two-thirds of those children are under 10. This sparks another debate regarding the safety of children on the internet. However those children dependent on social networking find themselves glued to their computer screen waiting on the next notification or message from one of their friends. Friends which they may not even know personally. Another group would be those that work on their computers. These people who often show themselves to be ambitious careerists who would struggle to differentiate between work and play. For these types of people work and play are one as they get enthralled in their activities, indulging their need to develop their passion into a viable financial solution. Finally I want to consider the gamers, the people that are dependent upon the virtual worlds that many platforms such as PC, Xbox and PlayStation offer. Gaming worlds offer people a chance to leave the world they are in and embrace a new one. These worlds are at their mercy and this can provide these dependents with a feeling of control, a feeling that they may be unable to experience outside of their video game.

There are many negative effects and health concerns that accompany computer dependency; these can be divided into three categories; mental, physical and social. If we first consider a few of the mental effects a dependency on computers can have beginning with stress. Many dependents can get frustrated when a system isn’t working leading to stress, which in turn can cause someone to act out their feelings sometimes violently. Griffiths (1991) felt that an addiction or dependency on computers especially violent video games does in fact affect children negatively and they tend to show increased levels of aggression. Research has found children to exhibit addictive behaviour towards their participation in computer game playing (Phillips et al, 1995), which can be a catalyst for many problems. On such problem that I experienced first-hand whilst on a teaching placement was sleep deprivation. Children can get so enthralled in their computers especially video games that they lose all track of time or will sit into the late hours of the night. This of course has a great impact the following day as children show signs of drowsiness and a difficulty concentrating whilst in school. This was ratified by research conducted by (Meijar et al, 2000) who concluded that quality of sleep has a “substantial impact” on school functioning for children. Secondly there are also physical repercussions for having a dependency on games. Long extended periods sitting at a computer or hunched over a video games can lead to the development of a sore back, neck and even eye problems. Personal hygiene can also suffer as looking after your own body becomes less of a priority and spending more time on the computer increases. In addition to this there is also a link between computer dependency and obesity, researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University Hospital of Zurich published a study in the journal of Obesity Research in 2004 that establishes the link between computer dependency and childhood obesity.
Finally another factor which suffers because of a person’s dependency on their computer is their social life. The user can gradually withdraw into a virtual world where by the dependent becomes more focused on the computer and places emotional value on what happens in an artificial world rather than in real life. Brod (1984) suggested that children’s ability to learn would become distorted and that they might develop and intolerance for human interaction. He believed the computer was used as a refuge for stress, preventing the development of a well-rounded personality by cutting the child off from other activities.

We are very quick to jump to the conclusion that computers and video games are bad; only hampering the development of our children, but it is important to understand the opinions of the involved parties. The main concern of parents is that computers will affect their children in a negative way; this was proven in the Byron Review (2008) when 79 per cent of parents thought computers may affect the behaviour of children. Researching various debates recorded online I found many parents commented saying things such as, “It’s a waste of time” or “They could be out playing football or working on their homework.” Other parents believed that there is no problem with children using computers as long as it is in moderation and does not affect other aspects of their lives.
As a trainee teacher I found that computer dependency was not a big problem on my placements. There were children in my class who were obsessed with video games and games on their computer. In fact it would often be the topic of conversation during their lunch breaks and free time. However I found that this obsession never got in the way of their learning. A study conducted by (Gentile et al, 2004) with teachers found that computer dependency in children often led to more children confronting members of staff and they often witnessed a decline in their school achievements. On the 28th January 2011 BBC Radio Five live spoke to a young boy and his mother regarding his addiction to his computer and video games. The young boy described himself as feeling happy in his own world and stated “I’d just get proper angry over nothing.” this interview highlighted some of the effects computer dependency has on children. The boy blamed the amount of time he spent on his computer as one of the reasons he become so dependent. In one study by Walsh (2000), a majority of teens admitted that their parents do not impose a time limit on the number of hours they are allowed to spend on their computers. Perhaps responsibility falls to the parents to regulate how much time children are allowed to spend on their computers, perhaps the blame for computer dependent children lies with them.

Children use their computers for a number of reasons, many use them for social networking, gaming and educational purposes. It is important that computers are not seen as detrimental to our children or their development. In fact if used correctly they can be one of the greatest tools at a child’s disposal, furthering their education. I feel that it is essential that parent regulate how long children are allowed on their computers but also guide their children. Show them new ways to exploit the capabilities of a computer.

Sources, References and Further Reading

  • Brod, C. (1984) Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution. Michigan: Addison-Wesley.
  • Byron, T. (2008) The Byron Review: Safer Children in a Digital World.
  • Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P., Linder, J. & Walsh, D. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5-22.
  • Griffiths, M.D. (1991) ‘Amusement machine playing in childhood and adolescence: A comparative analysis of video games and fruit machines’, Journal of Adolescence, 14, pp. 53–73
  • Griffiths, M.D. (1993)  ‘Are computer games bad for children?’ The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 6, pp. 401–7
  • Mark Griffiths. CyberPsychology & Behavior. April 2000, 3(2): 211-218.
  • Meijer, A., Habekothea, H. & Vandenwittenboer, G. (2000) Time in bed, quality of sleep and school functioning of children. Journal of Sleep Research. 9(2): 145-153.
  • Office for National Statistics. (2010) http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/family-spending/family-spending/family-spending-2011-edition/sum-consumer-durables-nugget.html
  • Phillips, C.A., Rolls, S., Rouse, A. and Griffiths, M.D. (1995) ‘Home video game playing in school children: a study of incidence and patterns of play’, Journal of Adolescence, 18, pp. 687–691
  • Shotton, M. (1989) Computer Addiction: A study of Computer Dependency. London: Taylor & Francis.
  • Sky News (2013) Cost Of Raising A Child Soars To £222,000. [Online] Available at: http://news.sky.com/story/1042120/cost-of-raising-a-child-soars-to-222000 (Accessed: 25th January 2013)
  • Walsh, D. (2000). Interactive violence and children: Testimony submitted to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate. (March 21, 2000.) Available:http://commerce.senate.gov/ hearings/0321wal1.pdf (Accessed: 26th January 2013)
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Learning through Making

How should we learn? What is the best way to teach a child? These are questions that many intellectuals have asked and tried to answer for years, many of whom have published theories on what they believe is the best way for children to learn. As mentioned by (Wheeler, 2012) the transmission model of learning is still dominating our classrooms today. This model assumes that learning is dependent on the teacher, that they are present to repeat facts. Children are viewed as an apathetic vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge. The transmission model suggests assessment is based on whether the information communicated by the teacher has reached the child and how effectively. However this idea of teaching is not representative of all schools and of the many teachers that adapt their teaching in order to gain the best from their class.

Les Vygotsky introduced the idea that each child has the potential to access a Zone of Proximal Development which is the area beyond the child’s current knowledge. The zone is defined as; “The distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978). Vygotsky explained that with the assistance of either a peer or an adult the child will be able to extend their own zone of proximal development, which is basically the area of knowledge that the child didn’t not have which they can now access. This theory would support the idea of group work specifically dyadic grouping where the close working partnership between two pupils, one of which being considered to be of a higher level than the other; will allow them to discuss and come to a suitable conclusion on how to complete a task. In addition to this the pupils will learn from each other and enhance their skills in communication and the subject concerned. “What is in the zone of proximal development today will be the actual development level tomorrow that is what a child can do with assistance today she will be able to do by herself tomorrow” (Vygotsky, 1978).

Constructivism is a theory of learning and an approach to education that lays emphasis on the ways that people create meaning of the world through a series of individual constructs. Constructivists believe that the knowledge a child has is built up through a series of schemas or a cognitive framework and that what is taught is only a stepping stone that influences further learning. What children learn arises through the construction of concepts that make sense through their real life experiences and reflections upon said experiences. In the idea of constructivism we are creators of our own knowledge. When we come across a new idea we have to reconcile it with previous knowledge and experiences, this could lead to the formation of new knowledge or we may disregard the new idea. Some criticisms of this method of teaching suggest that there is no active role for the teacher in the classroom and that their “expert knowledge” is deemed surplus to requirements. I would argue that the role of the teacher has in fact changed and they are seen today as facilitators of learning. In traditional methods the teacher will stand at the front of the class, delivering a lecture of facts matching those set by the curriculum. In a constructivist classroom the facilitator will help guide the child and help them arrive at their own conclusion, through a series of enquiry based lessons which allow children to solve problems, formulate ideas and arrive at conclusions that they can reflect upon. In this view of teaching the child is an active participant in the learning process rather than a passive recipient of facts. Children are given the opportunity to construct their own knowledge and become actively engaged in their learning; consequently resulting in learning through real life experiences, collaborative work and their own findings. (Brooks, 1999) stated that, “as long as there were people asking each other questions, we have had constructivist classrooms. Constructivism, the study of learning, is about how we all make sense of the world.” The theory of constructivism was developed by the work of Piaget and he has inspired many people.
One man who modernised the idea of “Learning by Making” was Seymour Papert. It was his ground-breaking work that has resulted in the widespread use of information technology in our classrooms today. He is an expert on how technology can provides us with new ways to learn and a pioneer of artificial intelligence. Jean Piaget was a major influence for Papert and in fact they worked together for a number of years. Piaget viewed Papert as his best student and is said to have remarked, “No one understands my work better than Seymour Papert.” Piaget helped to define constructivism and develop this theory; however Papert further built upon this idea and came up with his idea of constructionism. What is constructionism? (Kafai & Resnick, 1996) defined it as “a learning theory and a strategy of education, built upon the ideas of Piaget.” however although true this is a vague definition. Papert (1991) himself describes constructionism as “building knowledge structures,” or has he said “learning by making.” This is also described as learning by design, the idea that the learner or designer will gain more from engaging in an activity that result in the creation of something that is meaningful to them. The object created will have clear learning outcome but will be formed from contexts and skills taken from the child’s experiences.

In this learning theory the teacher is acting as a facilitator and as (Papert, 1993) said, “The role of the teacher is to create the conditions for invention rather than provide ready-made knowledge.” Children are given the opportunity to investigate through creating programming or designing using real life applications. The teacher will set targets and only guide the children towards the correct path but it is through their own chosen strategy that children will come to a conclusion. Learning by making could begin as research, a class discussion, a game and develop into the creation of a portfolio, detailing evidence that the child has an understanding of a particular topic. Throughout the process the children are encouraged to test their ideas, evaluating them and adding improvements if necessary. Papert give us an insight into how we as teachers can rethink education, dream up new learning environments and give children access to new tools, media, and technologies that they can use to develop their own learning.

Vygotsky’s research was based on the idea that with the aid of other people as resources we can extend our cognitive potential. Constructionism or learning by making share similarities to this theory. It promotes collaborative work among learners, with groups sharing ideas in order to aid their inquiry and further their learning. Traditional learning expects the child to take in an abundance of facts many of which will seem boring and pointless to said child. Learning through making allows children to use their own strategies to learn. These strategies will be based on the child’s own understanding and this may not be the same as the teacher. However it is what works for them and when the learning is given a real life context it becomes meaningful. If something seems pointless why should a child remember it, give it a context, give it a point!

Sources, references and further reading

  • Ackerman, Edith, “Piaget’s Constructivism, Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the difference?” Available online:  http://www.learning.media.mit.edu/content/publications/EA.Piaget%20_%20Papert.pdf (Accessed 16th January 2013).
  • Kafai, Y., & Resnick, M. (Eds.). (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Papert, S. & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. In Constructionism: Research reports and essays.
  • Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms. Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. New York: Basic books
  • Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking schools in the age of the computer. New York: Basic Books.
  • Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Situating constructionism. In S. Papert & I. Harel (Eds.), Constructionism. New York: Ablex Publishing.
  • Vygotsky, L. (1978). Interaction between learning and development. From: Mind and Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Wheeler, S. (2012) Learning by Making. Available online: http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/learning-by-making.html?m=1(Accessed 16th January 2013).
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How the Work of Pavlov Influenced Education

Pavlov was born on the 26th September 1849 in Ryazan, Russia. Ivan Pavlov devoted his life to the study of physiology and sciences, providing us with remarkable discoveries which led to him being awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1904. However, Pavlov began as a man of religion before turning his attention to the sciences for which he is now known.

During his career Pavlov held many scientific/medical positions such as the chair of pharmacology at the Tomsk University and then at the University of Warsaw. However Pavlov was invited to the institute of Experimental Medicine in 1891 to organize and direct the Department of Physiology and, over a 45 year period, he was credited with it becoming one of the most important centres of physiological research.

Pavlov was a physiologist and is famous for his research into “Conditional Reflex,” this research signalled the start of behaviourism. His work referred to his study of how dogs salivate and how he could change their behaviour through reinforcement: he found that when a bell was rung in a particular sequence in relation to the presentation of food he could get the dogs to salivate before the food was consumed. Pavlov built upon this theory and as time went on he was able to get the dogs to salivate upon hearing the bell, even if there was no food present. The bell began as a neutral stimulus as it had no bearing on whether or not the dogs would salivate but once the bell could cause salivation regardless of the presence of food it became a condition stimulus. The dogs had made a connection between the sound of a bell and receiving food, so a new behaviour had been conditioned. Pavlov was the first person to study the laws of conditioning which paved the way for others, such as John Watson, to develop the idea further. Watson, in his paper “Psychology as the behaviourist views it”  (1913), presented the idea of “Classical Conditioning” which was based upon the observations conducted by Pavlov. It explained that the idea of conditioning was to teach the subject to associate an unconditioned stimulus, which causes a particular reflex, with a conditioned stimulus, which will cause the same reflex.

Pavlov carried out a lot of research proving that conditioning applied to animals, however, would such a process affect a human? The Journal of Experimental Psychology Watson & Rayner (1920) proved that conditioning would in fact work on a human by conducting the controversial “Little Albert Experiment.” This experiment involved striking a metal bar with a hammer behind a baby names Albert’s head, this startled him causing him to cry, over a period of seven weeks a white rat was presented to Albert with the bar being struck immediately afterwards and, by the end of this period, showed fear and cried whenever he saw the rat regardless of whether or not the bar was struck. Watson & Rayner had managed to repeat Pavlov’s work on dogs using a human beings; relating a conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus so that the same reflex. This experiment is often “cited as the first exemplary case of behaviour conditioning,” (Mackenzie, 1977) Watson named the theory “Behaviourism” and it is based upon Pavlov’s theory.

Below is a video showing the “Little Albert Experiment” – watch from one minute.

Another man who built upon the theory of classical conditioning was B.F Skinner who is known for his behaviourist views and his work regarding “Operant Conditioning.” It is best defined as the changing of behaviour through the use of reinforcement; this being positive or negative. Skinner had few people that influenced his work but none more so than Pavlov, in fact he stated, “Russell and Watson had given me no glimpse of experimental method, but Pavlov had: Control the environment and you will see order in behaviour’’ (Skinner, 1967, p. 399). Throughout his writings Skinner openly expresses his affection for Pavlov, whether this is hanging a signed photograph of Pavlov on his office wall or mentioning in his biography that Pavlov ‘‘Is a star which lights the world” (Skinner, 1976). We have no doubt that Pavlov influenced the research conducted by many people such as Skinner and as his ideas have been manipulated and built upon we have seen how they have motivated behaviour management in schools today. Positive and negative reinforcement is a common practice seen in the classroom. Many teachers make their children aware of what is expected of them from the beginning of the year so that there is a clear indication of what good behaviour is; actions that break these expectations are often considered to be bad behaviour. In order to encourage good behaviour, teachers will provide rewards for the children, these may include stickers, games the children like and other nice things. The aim of this is to motivate the children to behave well and work hard in the hope that they will receive a reward. On the other hand teachers will also have punishments that are used in the hope of discouraging negative behaviour. Examples of punishments may be the removal of free time, a telling off or excluding a child from an activity they enjoy. Punishments are used to weaken a particular behaviour whereas rewards are used to strengthen or reinforce a particular behaviour. Skinner (1968) argued that learning is a result of the reinforcement or punishment of behaviours within a context that is deliberately manipulated by the teacher. Therefore a teacher may structure their teaching in order to receive the correct response, or even use punishers to ensure the incorrect response is not given.

As teachers we want to encourage children to generate their own ideas about their learning and learn in a way that suits them best. However, it is important that the style in which they choose to learn does not affect the learning of others. This does not necessarily mean that they must be silent and restricted from discussing their ideas as a group, but it would mean that whilst learning children are behaving appropriately, whether or not their behaviour is deemed appropriate would be at the discretion of the teacher. However the consequences of the behaviour are important as this will determine whether the behaviour will recur. There is so much to think about regarding classroom management and how to get the best out of all our children; behaviourism is one theory to consider as Atherton (2010) stated, it has been “undermined” by the “cognitive revolution.”

As people began to recognise Pavlov and his work became well known, the idea of conditioning branched out to become a key concept in the developing specialism of comparative psychology. Pavlov’s work with classical conditioning had a huge influence on how humans perceive themselves, their behaviour and learning processes. His worked encouraged many others such as Watson and Skinner to delve deeper into his original idea. The result was a theory that was constantly challenged and developed; the idea of behaviourism.

Sources, Referencing and Further Reading.

  • Gray, J. (1979) Pavlov. Glasgow: Fontana Paperbacks
  • Mackenzie, B (1977) Behaviourism and the Limits of Scientific Method. London: Routledge.
  • Pavlov, I. (1927) Conditioned Relfexes: An Investigation of the Physiological Activity of the Cerebral Cortex. [Online] Available at: http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Pavlov/lecture2.htm (Accessed: 11th January 2013)
  • Pavlov, I. P. (1897/1902). The Work Of The Digestive Glands. London: Griffin.
  • Pavlov, I. P. (1928). Lectures On Conditioned Reflexes. (Translated by W.H. Gantt) London: Allen and Unwin.
  • Pavlov, I. P. (1955). Selected Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House.
  • Skinner, B. F. (1967). B. F. Skinner. In E. G. Boring & G. Lindzey (Eds.), A history of psychology in autobiography (Vol. 5, pp. 385–413). New York:  Appleton-Century-Crofts.
  • Skinner, B. F. (1976). Particulars of my life. New York: Knopf
  • Watson, J. B. & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1, pp. 1–14.
  • Watson, J. B. (1924). Behaviorism. New York: People’s Institute Publishing Company.
  • Watson, J.B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158–177
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