As you read the passage below, consider how Eliana Dockterman uses
• evidence, such as facts or examples, to support claims.
• reasoning to develop ideas and to connect claims and evidence.
• stylistic or persuasive elements, such as word choice or appeals to emotion, to add power to the ideas expressed.
1 By all measures, this generation of American kids (ages 3 to 18) is the tech-savviest in history: 27% of them use tablets, 43% use smartphones, and 52% use laptops. And in just a few weeks they will start the most tech-saturated school year ever: Los Angeles County alone will spend $30 million on classroom iPads this year, outfitting 640,000 kids by late 2014.
2 Yet, according to the latest findings from the research firm Grunwald Associates, barely half of U.S. parents agree that mobile technology should play a more prominent role in schools. Some are even paying as much as $24,000 to send their kids to monthlong “digital detox” programs like the one at Capio Nightingale Hospital in the U.K. . . .
3 So who’s right—the mom trying to protect her kids from the perils of new technology or the dad who’s coaching his kids to embrace it? It’s an urgent question at a time when more than 80% of U.S. school districts say they are on the cusp of incorporating Web-enabled tablets into everyday curriculums.
4 For years, the Parental Adage was simple: The less time spent with screens, the better. That thinking stems from, among other things, reports about the rise of cyberbullying . . . as well as the fact that social media—specifically the sight of others looking happy in photos—can make kids feel depressed and insecure.
5 There’s also a fundamental aversion to sitting kids in front of screens, thanks to decades of studies proving that watching too much TV can lead to obesity, violence and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
6 In that vein, the Waldorf Schools—a consortium of private K-12 schools in North America designed to “connect children to nature” and “ignite passion for lifelong learning”—limit tech in the classroom and bar the use of smartphones, laptops, televisions and even radios at home. “You could say some computer games develop creativity,” says Lucy Wurtz, an administrator at the Waldorf School in Los Altos, Calif., minutes from Silicon Valley. “But I don’t see any benefit. Waldorf kids knit and build things and paint—a lot of really practical and creative endeavors.”
7 But it’s not that simple. While there are dangers inherent in access to Facebook, new research suggests that social-networking sites also offer unprecedented learning opportunities. “Online, kids can engage with specialized communities of interest,” says Mimi Ito, an anthropologist at the University of California at Irvine who’s studying how technology affects young adults. “They’re no longer limited by what’s offered in school.”
8 Early tech use has cognitive benefits as well. Although parenting experts have questioned the value of educational games—as Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech, puts it, “they’re a load of crap . . . meant to make money”—new studies have shown they can add real value. In a recent study by SRI, a nonprofit research firm, kids who played games like Samorost (solving puzzles) did 12% better on logic tests than those who did not. And at MIT’s Education Arcade, playing the empire-building game Civilization piqued students’ interest in history and was directly linked to an improvement in the quality of their history-class reports.
9 The reason: engagement. On average, according to research cited by MIT, students can remember only 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear and 50% of what they see demonstrated. But when they’re actually doing something themselves—in the virtual worlds on iPads or laptops—that retention rate skyrockets to 90%.
10 This is a main reason researchers like Ito say the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation of a two-hour screen-time limit is an outdated concept: actively browsing pages on a computer or tablet is way more brain-stimulating than vegging out in front of the TV.
11 The most convincing argument for early-age tech fluency, however, is more basic: staying competitive. “If you look at applying for college or a job, that’s on the computer,” says Shawn Jackson, principal of Spencer Tech, a public school in one of Chicago’s lower-income neighborhoods. Ditto the essential skills for jobs in fast-growing sectors such as programming, engineering and biotechnology. “If we’re not exposing our students to this stuff early,” Jackson continues, “they’re going to be left behind.” . . .
12 None of this means kids deserve unfettered access to the gadget of their choice—especially if, as McGrath notes, they’ve already been caught abusing it. As with any childhood privilege, monitoring is key. But parents should keep an open mind about the benefits of tech fluency.
Write an essay in which you explain how Eliana Dockterman builds an argument to persuade her audience that there are benefits to early exposure to technology. In your essay, analyze how Dockterman uses one or more of the features listed in the box above (or features of your own choice) to strengthen the logic and persuasiveness of her argument. Be sure that your analysis focuses on the most relevant features of the passage.
Your essay should not explain whether you agree with Dockterman’s claims, but rather explain how Dockterman builds an argument to persuade her audience.
Write the essay now!
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