Thanks for starting this thread. Yes, the media loves to hype up anything about IT and education, both positive and negative.
Re: electronic devices, there's a number of reasons why this is not at all surprising, e.g. students trying to multitask (human beings are terrible at multitasking), split attention effects (students trying to relate stuff between screen & lecturer, i.e. integrating new information from more than one source as mental models in working memory, which is extremely limited, therefore typically leading to shallower learning), and there's a higher cognitive cost from using digital devices vs. pen & paper which also typically leads to shallower learning.
Re: humanities (liberal arts) vs. STEM, the logic and reasoning skills that are useful in the humanities are different to those used in sciences. Going even further, the logic and reasoning skills that are useful in STEM disciplines are different from each other. Anyone who claims that any amount of significant transfer of logic and reasoning from one domain to another is likely, hasn't read the research. Even transfer of underlying concepts from one topic to the next within a discipline isn't necessarily guaranteed and ideally should be explicitly addressed in curricula. In short, being a brilliant thinker in the humanities says nothing about one's thinking abilities in STEM, and vice-versa.
Re: more visceral, hands-on learning, this is most certainly true in preschool and some of primary education: Young children's minds develop better understandings when they can draw upon lots of concrete examples/experiences in the real world. It's true of older children but concepts taught tend to get more abstract as education progresses, especially in secondary education.
Additionally, there's little evidence to suggest that putting screens in classrooms has any educational benefits, and lots of evidence that screens, even when used with the best of intentions in educational contexts, don't help learning. The OECD commissioned a report which concluded that there is an inverse correlation between classroom ICT use and academic performance: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264239555-en
There is great potential for using ICT in educational contexts but only if we do so in a well-informed way and on a case by case basis, weighing the evidence in favour and against. Just throwing computers into classrooms and expecting children to learn isn't a constructive way to implement educational policies.
BTW, particularly among pre-schoolers, the research evidence on screen exposure and interaction is shocking, e.g.
- Ambrose, S.E., VanDam, M., Moeller, M.P. (2014) Ear Hear, 35(2), pages 139-147.
Barr, R., Danziger, C., Hilliard, M., Andolina, C., and Ruskis, J. (2010) Amount, content and context of infant media exposure: A parental questionnaire and diary analysis. International Journal of Early Years Education June 1; 18(2) pages 107–122
- Barr, R., Lauricella, A., Zack, E. & Calvert, S. (2010). Infant and Early Childhood Exposure to Adult-Directed and Child-Directed Television Programming: Relations with Cognitive Skills at Age Four. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 56 (1): 20-48.
- Christakis, Dimitri (2009) The effects of infant media usage: what do we know and what should we learn? Acta Pediatrica 2009, 98, pages 8-16.
- Fisch, S.M., McCann Brown, S.K. & Cohen, D.I. (2001) Young Children's Comprehension of Educational Television: the Role of Visual Information and Intonation. Media Psychology Volume 3, Issue 4, pages 365-378
- Kuhl, Patricia K. (2011) Early Language Learning and Literacy: Neuroscience Implications for Education. Mind, Brain, and Education Volume 5. No. 3 pages 128-142
- Lagercrantz, H*. (2016) Connecting the brain of the child from synapses to screen-based activity. Acta Paediatr. 2016 Apr; 105(4): 352-7
*Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institute and Astrid Lindgren Children0s Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
- Linebarger, D. L., & Walker, D. (2005). Infants’ and toddlers’ television viewing and language outcomes. American Behavioral Scientist, 48(5), 624-645.
- Mendelsohn, A.L., Brockmeyer, C.A., Dreyer, B.P., Fierman, A.H., Berkule-Silberman, S. & Tomopoulos, S. (2010). Do Verbal Interactions with Infants during Electronic Media Exposure Mitigate Adverse Impacts on Their Language Development as Toddlers? Infant and Child Development 19: 577-93.
- Nathanson, A. I., Sharp, M. L., Aladé, F., Rasmussen, E. E., & Christy, K. (2013). The Relation Between Television Exposure and Theory of Mind Among Preschoolers. Journal Of Communication, 63(6), 1088-1108.
- Schwartz, Kelly Dean (2016). Brain Development and The Impact of Technology. The Alberta Early Years Brain Development Learning Series May 4, 2016
- Zimmerman, F., Christakis, D., Meltzoff, A. (2007) Associations between Media Viewing and Language Development in Children Under Age 2 Years. Journal of pediatrics Volume 151, Issue 4, Pages 364–368