Devices - Should they stay or should they go?
I’m worried that the school where my son goes has a BYO (bring-your-own) device policy from year 5 (9 years old). I understand that technology is not all bad but I would prefer my children to learn without devices at school and postpone a full immersion into the digital world. Is there anything I can do?
I want to say this is BIG and at the same time I need to ask “what’s the big deal?”
I know the fear is real, why would you fake it? But where does this anxiety or fear of new technology come from? Research? Science? The Internet?
Yes, we need to be skeptical of what the experts and the ignorant are convincing us of and yes, we need to consider what technology can do FOR us not TO us. But what is it about devices that shouldn’t be in schools?
When my son was 9 years old he had to write a speech about technology. To get the content for his speech, he TEXTED his brother, he EMAILED his uncle, he SPOKE to his aunty, GOOGLED a few quotes and PHONED his nanny. He had his answers that night and pushed all the words together to make his speech. No pencil and not a scrap of paper! The words that struck me were my Mums, “Nanny” answered, “technology is like a long running soap, even if you miss a generation or two, you can catch up”…
Humanity has been dealing with technological advances since the invention of the wheel. More recently and before social media Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were going to be the downfall of primary school boys, then mobile phones, TV, space travel, imagine the reaction to the first car crash in the 1800s.
Is it the fear of technology, is it the fear of progress, or is it the fear of the unknown?
The internet is here to stay at least until something replaces it, as parents we should be insisting that schools look to the future rather than stop the clock in the classroom. Perhaps it is in education that we need to know digital technology better than in any other industry.
So where do we start ensuring that having devices in the classroom doesn’t have a detrimental effect on this generation? I believe that at the moment schools and teachers are woefully ill-prepared. Our schools need to understand the place of digital technology in learning. It is the responsibility of teachers to understand this.
There are two issues around safety in the classroom, over-use and safety on the net.
Over-use of the devices
As an educator I will not ban or limit the use of devices in the classroom, for me it is like banning pen and paper. When technology is treated as a reward or a treat or something you can use after you have finished your work, students are inclined to use it to “consume”, sneaking away to watch it like a glorified TV. In a classroom where devices are available at all times, with all the correct systems and structures put in place and with a strong focus on learning, devices are used to “create”, to find out and to collaborate. When we trust the process of learning, we can assume students will want to learn what is important. A simple lesson for students is understanding the difference between consuming and creating on devices. Again, preparing teachers is crucial to make this happen.
Students are naturally drawn to devices. Devices can redefine what learning looks like in the classroom. These videos show 6 and 7 year olds willing and excited to share their new learning.
Safety on the net
If safety on the net is our main concern parents should know that, just as we teach road safety and water safety, teachers will teach internet safety.
Children are naturally curious, yes they will come across inappropriate material and I wish they wouldn’t. We can combat this by ensuring that devices are set up safely for students and more importantly by setting up expectations for them. Schools have digital technology agreements, this is not failsafe, neither are kids! But where better to learn safety on the net than in a classroom, where students can learn from their mistakes, where the school values of respect and responsibility can be transferred to the digital landscape. I remember my son, a distraught Mr 7, coming home from school and explaining through sobs that so and so had destroyed his Minecraft world, that was the day he learned not to share a password. I am pleased he learned that at 7, when the stakes were not so high, he rebuilt his Minecraft World.
Using critical thinking skills
When teachers understand the usefulness of devices, they can transform the school learning programme. Never before has information from experts around the globe been more available, never before have numeracy and literacy activities been so accessible for the students, never before has a learning platform excited children before, why not take advantage of this? As you read all the information about the dangers of the internet we can understand the importance of critical thinking skills for our children and ourselves. It’s time to use our critical thinking skills to sift through the information to make a sensible decision about our children’s learning environments so that they are prepared for a world where everything will be strongly affected by technology. For me, it makes sense to use the classroom as an opportunity to help children to navigate the digital world, using devices to support or even enhance learning. When adults get it right, digital technology can do a lot for us (not to us)?
Therese is from a large family with three children of her own. Mr 26, Miss 24 and Master 15. As an educator with many years of experience, she has collected plenty of stories, she uses these and family tales to inform her teaching practice.