Technology: Friend Or Foe?


I think everyone I know has a Smartphone, ipad, iPod or tablet these days.  Most people have all of the above.  In fact, even my 2 year old daughter asks several times a day to play on the ipad AND she knows how to get to the home screen, find music, watch a video, and almost how to buy an app (have to keep a close eye on that one)!  It is not a surprise that there are many current presentations promoting the latest and greatest applications for educating your child, supporting a child with special needs and so on.  But, did you ever stop and think: is it really better?  Is it really necessary?  Is it really saving me time and/or money?

These are questions that came to mind while listening to Dr. Linda LeBlanc present her research and thoughts regarding high technology versus low technology (the “old” way) at PennABA.   Are there any possible risks or side effects (the child may have increase in behavior when the time is up on the device)? What is the client’s preference (do they seem even more motivated with high tech devices)?  Is it at least, if not more, effective?  Does the child require pre-requisite skills (do you have to take the time to teach them how to use the keyboard or how to scroll, etc)?

Some of these questions are easily answered by parents and teachers who observe the child; in other cases, it may be beneficial to consult with a BCBA/BCaBA.  This is especially true when analyzing the effectiveness of an intervention.  For example, is video modeling working any better compared to the in person modeling done by the parent or therapist?  Consultants should ask and analyze:

Is it taking fewer trials to criterion to gain the skill? Is there better generalization and/or maintenance with either method? Are there lower rates of behavior? Is there lower cost?  How is training the staff—easier, more difficult?  Does one method favor therapist consistency? Is the intervention preferred by the child?

Dr. LeBlanc’s research that compared in vivo modeling versus video modeling showed that children showed quicker acquisition in the in vivo intervention, however, studies are mixed.  It is best to consider these questions across interventions, high tech versus low tech, with each goal.  Every individual is different and has different learning styles so be cautious of following the latest and greatest fad in education if the old fashioned way is just as effective and yields better results.

“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” – Bill Gates

~ Tammy

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