The beginning of the 1990s, I began my foray into technology with the writing of report cards, as well as using a computer for a science project. It was rather awe inspiring at the time. I suppose today, it would be pretty mundane. The science project was a grade four project at an international school in Japan. We were integrating our curriculum with math, science and a bit of reading. National Geographic generously assisted us with the technology and allowed us to partner with a school in Alaska to compare weather patterns. We tracked patterns in Tokyo Japan, graphed and charted, while the school in Alaska did the same. We compared weekly; including cloud types, rain, wind, hail, sleet, snow, temperature, etc. I found the whole thing riveting, as did the students. The students learned not only about weather patterns, differences, etc. but time differences as well (no app for that in the early 90s).
In the late 90s, early 2000s, technology became my efficient friend. Teaching high school support services at another international school, I was able to track my students’ progress in their core classes by reaching out to their teachers making sure they were meeting their obligations-turning in homework, showing up to class prepared and on time and engaged. It allowed me extra planning time rather than tracking down the teachers and interrupting their sacred planning time. It was a brilliant strategy that we all felt good about.
Fast forward to today, and I don’t think I need to describe what is going on today. The differences are extraordinary. We have students and parents wired to technology for a variety of reasons. For me, it is part of my business and I often meet with families via one of the internet platforms, I use a variety of searches via the internet, and unfortunately, I am online a lot. This is sometimes difficult for me because I think time as well as reflection time-two pieces of Habits of Mind, values that are related to problem solving and the maturing mind – for students and adults as well (Art Costa and Bena Kallick’s Habits of Minds).
For students, their classrooms do rely on tech, they are reading ebooks, watching videos, quite possibly, on their own time, picking up nefarious information on the internet. Young kids, young adults and even adults are glued to tech. We see this in restaurants as parents long to have a meal out and give their children ipads or phones with apps to keep their children quiet. I am not sure what is wrong with engaging in conversation, or handing over crayons and coloring books, but that is a story for another day.
Last week, I watched a blog on Tech and the Brain sponsored by Maggie Wray. and picked up a few pointers:
If your child is functioning and is able to:
- Focus and plan their day at home and school
- Function well
- Follow through with chores and school work
- Get ready for school appropriately (depending on age- this may be with direction or without)
- Socialize without tech or even with tech
- Getting good marks in school with good narrative on report cards
Then perhaps screen time is going well at home (but always a good idea to reflect on if there is too much).
Here were some ground rules for tech in the home:
- No screens in the bedroom: computer and tv
- No screens after sundown -if you must/want to watch tv, be sure to watch from across the room
- Sacred time everyday: meaning family time, or quiet reading time with real books, arts and crafts, etc.
- Have conversations about screen time with your child (though screen time is different from when my children were growing up, they had a time limit: 30 minutes of recreational time-TV or computer)
- No double standard: parents cannot be on screen or phone if you don’t allow your children to be on any screens
- Have a device basket where you place your phones when walking in the door. It’s so important to listen to your child when they walk in the door upon coming home from school. They may not tell you much, but they will know you will be willing to listen, or allow them down time
- When traveling as a family, have a device free holiday
You all may not remember when PlayStation came out. My children begged for one. It was an adamant no. We would not pop for it. Even when they asked if they could go out and raise the money for themselves, we just did not want it in the house. When their grandparents asked if they could pay for it, we said no. It was probably the only time we said no when my parents wished to indulge their grandchildren. Guess what? My children, now adults living on their own, thanked us after stepping foot in college for not buying that device. The felt they used their time in a more efficient manner.
For more advice: Read Reset Your Child’s Brain by Victoria Dunckley