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Parent Advocacy Group Warns of Ed-Tech 'Threats'

Dig-Girl-iPad.jpgCiting threats to children's health and well-being from rising screen time, increased testing and data collection, and what some view as misguided teaching strategies, the advocacy group Parents Across America today called on school districts and states to be "far more cautious, diligent, transparent, and accountable about their technology decisions."

While the group is not against the "appropriate" use of technology in schools, "we are speaking out for balanced, healthy classrooms for our children," said Laura Bowman, head of the group's Roanoke, Va. chapter, in a statement.

"We strongly oppose the push to increase student screen time, replace teachers with packaged lessons delivered by digital devices, and continuously test students, data-mining the results," Bowman said.

Among the documents issued by PAA are:

  • A list of reports describing technology's potentially harmful effects on everything from students' emotional well-being to their vision;
  • A list of recommendations for legislators and education policymakers;
  • A breakdown of ed-tech "buzzwords" (many of which will be quite familiar to regular readers of this blog.)

Parents Across America, which got its start with the help of funding from the country's largest teacher's union, is explicit in its opposition to what the group describes as "corporate school reform." The growing push for more technology in the classroom will financially benefit corporations, but is based on limited research about educational effectiveness, PAA maintains. The group has consistently fought against excessive standardized testing, charter schools, the Common Core State Standards, and test-based teacher evaluation efforts, positioning itself as an opponent to many of the efforts pushed by the Obama administration and large philanthropies such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (which provides support for Education Week.)

Among its members are advocates who played a major role in previous successful efforts to challenge ed-tech initiatives, including inBloom, a controversial multi-state data repository (funded in part by the Gates Foundation) that was ultimately scuttled in the face of rising privacy concerns.

National surveys of parents have found complex attitudes towards their children's use of technology in schools; a 2016 study by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, for example, describes parents who worry about tech-based distractions and exposure to inappropriate content online, but who believe that technology plays an important role in preparing their children for important tests. 

"PAA recognizes that technology has many benefits," according to the group's issue brief. "But until our concerns about the misuse and overuse of EdTech in schools are effectively addressed, we will continue to speak out and advocate for policies and practices that protect our children from harm."


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