Parents want technology in school. But, what kind and how much?

Technology opportunities

Many parents come to me with articles they’ve read, questions they have about minimizing screen time and how to get their child more verbally engaged.  Frequently, they want to know my opinion about technology in the school environment.  

We are all familiar with STEM, STEAM and if you are a school of religion, STREAM.  As a parent, I love that we are implementing these things into our curriculum. We really do want technology in schools, despite the fact that we battle it so frequently in our homes. 

The classroom makeover

The opportunities young people experience in the classroom today surpass anything my generation had access to during our school years.  To think that our children as young as Kindergarten, can explore architecture, robotics, science, and coding, to name a few, is remarkable, exciting, and progressive.  THESE are the things parents want.  THESE are the technology opportunities we are excited about our children being exposed to.  

Looking to the future

Interestingly,when you visit school websites, almost all of them tout the technology they have to offer. There is almost always a technology tab on any given school website.  Additionally, many schools even have a technology coordinator or a Director of Technology Curriculum. What this says to us,  is that schools think we want this.  It tells us that schools think we are shopping for THE school that is going to give our child the greatest exposure to the world of technology that lies ahead.  After all, they are going to need to be well versed in the digital world as they enter their professional careers one day.  

Guess what? Schools aren’t wrong.  We DO want all of these advantages for our children!  We do value the most up to date and cutting edge cyber tools for our growing minds.  

What parents DON’T want

I’ve spoken with hundreds of parents and educators about what it is we DON’T want.  I’m sure there are hundreds of other folks I haven’t interacted with yet that feel differently. However, what I am hearing from parents is that they are growing tired of username and password packets. Thick booklets guiding them to upwards of fifteen different websites or applications we can log into. Websites and applications to give our children more opportunities at home.  

There are some sites that can sometimes be used to “bail your kiddo out” if they left their reader at school, forgot their math homework, lost their study guide, etc. Consequently,while these types of sites might provide a sense of relief so your child doesn’t fall behind, it merely gives them a crutch. 

When we do a disservice to our children

When my daughter was in third grade, she was to bring home a reading book every Wednesday.  This book had a compilation of short stories in it. The following day, she would be quizzed on the story she read the evening before.  Last I checked, there aren’t too many daunting responsibilities at the age of 8 and 9 years old.

When the time came to read together, the book wasn’t in the backpack.  She forgot it at school. Initially, I wanted to reach out to another parent to get a screen shot of the story, or refer to the password packet that would direct me to the site that has the textbook online. However, using my better judgment, I opted for the teachable moment.  I decided if she failed the test miserably, she would likely do better in the future by remembering the one thing she absolutely needs to bring home every Wednesday. Sure enough, it was never forgotten again. Although, the lucky duck scored fairly well on the quiz. 

Wait, I thought we are supposed to limit screen time? 

I hear from parents who don’t want their children on screen time at home, but are urged to use applications to give them more math practice or spelling practice.  Once children are finished with homework, it is important for them to play outside. They need to be engaging in extra-curricular activities. Alternatively, some kids enjoy drawing, painting, and coloring. Not only do kids need a break from more and more academic rigor, but the general consensus in the world is kids need to unplug from screens. 

Enough is enough

Many of us are already inundated with our OWN usernames and passwords for email, banking accounts, athletic websites to sign our children up for an activity, and the list goes on.  The last thing we want is a library of more usernames and passwords connected to our children. 

What we want is balance

Ideally, I think the message to our schools needs to be yes, we do want technology in our children’s lives. What that picture looks like might be a bit different from what our schools think we want. 

I’ve always wondered how many parents take advantage of all of these extras given to us.  As someone who writes curriculum for schools, I do know there are costs and fees associated with every subscription based program our schools participate in.  I wonder how much money is wasted because the user to application offered ratio is out of balance. 

Waste not, want not

Think about it, if your institution is paying $5 – $7 a user, which is a common price point, and you are a school of 500 students, that’s anywhere from $2500-$3000 spent.  If only half of the school population is taking advantage of these sites and apps, that’s a significant amount of wasted money. Money that could be better spent on experiences. Heck, even if you wanted to use it on technology purchases, you could buy 3D Printers, or outfit Robotics labs. Something to ask your Board of Education about, folks. 

Our final plea

We’d love technology taught in an instructor led environment where children are gaining rich and vast knowledge to be excellent future leaders. Please give them the tools and skills they are going to need as they progress through their academic career. Expose students to the exciting things they can create and build through the technological advances put before them. However, please don’t dress up how much technology your institution has to offer. Providing us with overwhelming amounts and sometimes useless sites, it’s simply not what we are interested in. Perhaps, we can’t fit it into our after school routine.  Also, we don’t want things that give our children crutches when they absent mindedly forget the very few things they have to remember at this point in their lives.   

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