By: Randall Waszynski & Tim Oakes
Eighteen Long Island school districts have, in the past three weeks, been approved to collectively receive $18.2 million in technology funding, yet educational technology experts suggest the increased financing can lead to the development of mental illnesses.
“There has been over 200 peer reviewed studies that have shown the effects on ADHD, addiction, anxiety, and depression,” Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, psychotherapist for The Dunes East Hampton, said. The Dunes East Hampton is a top rehabilitation center in East Hampton, New York. “I think a lot of superintendents mean well, but I think they have been conned by these tech companies.”
Children with depression tend to display intense internet usage patterns, according to a study conducted by researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology. Of adolescents — ages 13 through 18 — in the US, 10.7 percent have been diagnosed with major depression, according to results from the 2010 National Comorbidity Survey Replication–Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Other studies have observed significant internet use in children to be linked to anxiety and ADHD.
“My son has ADD,” Kathi Heggers, president of the Rocky Point Parent Teacher Association, said. She finds that her son is constantly glued to a screen when at home.
There are some experts who do not believe more technology and screens in classrooms lead to the development of mental illnesses.
“Sometimes our students have too much time with technology,” James Mazza, an educational psychology professor at the University of Washington. “But I do not think that the diagnosis of mental illnesses correlates with increased technologies in the classroom.
The increase of state funding for classroom technology entails a higher rate of internet use for children, the in-class screen time will be in addition to the the surfing/screen viewing children do at home.
“There are a lot of great things we can do with new technologies that really help schools live up to their promise,” Matthew Curinga, educational technology professor at Adelphi University, said. “It depends on the types of technology and the things that they’re doing with it.” Curinga said.
Each school district votes whether to approve the funding, but not every teacher may be enthusiastic in changing their lesson plans. Rocky Point and Half Hollow Hills are examples of school districts that leave the implementation of new technologies in lesson plans to each teacher’s discretion.
“If they’re not interested in it and if they don’t see it improving what they do, they’re never going to get the most out of it.” Curinga said. “When we talk about schools, we have limited resources, so the decision to move to a one-to-one laptop program for a school district is a decision not to spend that money on something else.”
As of Sept. 14, 18 of the 125 school districts on Long Island (14.4 percent) have been approved for funding.
The distribution of funds is designed to bridge the divide between school districts with certain educational technology in classrooms based on how the amount of funding each school district already receives. The investment will push for internet broadband expansion, allowing for more high-speed internet access for students, which is recommended by federal and state guidelines.
“If we’re going to have wireless, we might as well have devices,” Ryan Drosselmeier, Rocky Point Union Free School District tech representative, said.
Rocky Point is using its state funding to create an in-school environment that encourages newer technologies in classrooms such as devices like tablets, smartphones and laptops. The school has begun a $2.5 million project to put access points in every classroom, giving students the opportunity to use smart devices in classrooms at the teacher’s discretion.
Other Long Island school districts, like Half Hollow Hills, have already established a “Bring Your Own Device” policy in the classroom, a policy that allows students to use personal devices during class.
“We need to know that our students know how to use technology and use it responsibly,” Jolynn Sapia, the district’s Instructional Computer Director, said.
Even 3-D laboratories have been introduced in some Long Island classrooms, offering an innovative way to exhibit creativity and learn through virtual reality. Island Park School District plans to implement the program for the beginning of the 2016-17 school year. The equipment was provided by zSpace, a virtual reality company based out of California.
“The art teacher can have students design something, and then they can print a 3-D model of what they’ve designed,” Christine Chu, the education technology specialist at Island Park School District, said.
Still, over 100 Long Island school districts have yet to receive additional technology funding from the state, but that may change in coming months.