A loss of discovery

I was in Borders today reminiscing with all of the large science picture books and encyclopedia, being reminded of how I used to discover and learn new things. When I was a kid, I used to go to the library and spend hours in these books, discovering what each page has to reveal to me, in no particular order, filling my mind with more wonder about our world and our universe. My time would be lost in these books, but I didn’t care, because I had no tablet, no smartphone, and no Facebook to distract me (yes, I say distract).

As I walk around our shopping malls and our bookstores today, I see less and less children with their heads buried in books discovering something new and more and more buried in smartphones playing the latest color-matching game. Even as I write this blog post, a young boy sitting across the cafe from me is buried in his smartphone.

I am worried that the children of tomorrow have lost this precious gift of discovery, of being bored and grabbing a giant picture book to learn random things, such as how big Jupiter is or why plants need water. Being a teacher is becoming hard and harder these days because we don’t have this ally of child discovery on our side anymore. We must teach students how to be interested in the things around us (and boy does that annoy me!).

Last week, I was covering an English class and one girl raised her hand to ask me how to spell a certain word. I told her to look in her dictionary. She looked at me like I was a lunatic. A lunatic I may be – at least I have a dictionary! I remember as a kid spending hours in English, French, German, Finnish, and Yiddish dictionaries just discovering something new and learning something I hadn’t known before. I then went on to lecture the class about the importance of spending a few bucks to buy a dictionary.

I believe that having smartphones in our pockets is killing discovery in our young children and is hindering their ability to learn effectively. From a teacher’s point of view, I value in having a room full of students who know how to and constantly discover new things on a daily basis rather than having to teach them not only the material, but how to discover that material. We should be cautious with our children, limiting their time on their smartphone and tablets, and forcing them to discover something new. For crying out loud, drop them off at a library for the afternoon. It won’t kill them, I promise!

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