There were a number of great projects and programs running in our district in January, including Screen Smart , Unplug and Play, Family Literacy day/week, Heap the Honda and more. I am curious about the comments that I receive from colleagues each year when these events take place, wondering if, as Technology Coordinator, I’m “upset” or “offended” by the posters and media promoting them. Some people view these valuable programs as promoting a message that technology is bad for our kids. This is not how I interpret their message at all.
Just like any other activity, technology used in meaningful ways, and in balance with other pursuits, can be a powerful tool for teaching, learning, and communicating. None of the above programs talk about technology being bad for children, however, they do advocate for making good parenting choices about how much screen time we allow our children to participate in each day. They also encourage appropriate and relevant use of the technologies at our disposal. This is an absolutely essential message parents should listen to and heed, and one that I make constant connections with. The number one thing I argue with my own two teenage boys about at home…???? If you guessed that it’s how much screen time they are logging each day, you are correct! My husband and I work hard to monitor time spent on screens of all types, help our sons make good choices about the types of technology they are using, and ensure that they are enrolled in other activities that promote a balance between entertainment, educational use of technology, and other “non-technological” activities. It is an ongoing process, but a valuable one.
Anything not done in balance with other activities can easily be considered “bad” for you. I rarely hear anyone insinuating that reading is a poor choice for entertainment or leisure; however, if someone were to spend all their time with their nose in a book and avoid participating in any physical activity or interaction with other people, it most certainly would not be good for their health or development. Technology is much the same. Is a gaming system inherently bad? Not at all. Is making a choice to play video games for 10 hours straight every Saturday and Sunday a poor choice? Absolutely! Is limiting gaming time to a reasonable amount each day and providing other opportunities to engage in physical activities and other pursuits reasonable and healthy? You betcha!
As Technology Coordinator, I advocate for the effective, engaging, collaborative use of technologies in the classroom. I see people using it in amazing ways every day to make activities, lessons, and units more meaningful. Technology is not being used for entertainment in schools, but as a powerful tool for locating, working with and presenting information and for collaborating with other students and experts across the globe. Here is just a sampling of some of the things I see happening on a fairly regular basis in SD73 schools:
- Teachers presenting engaging lessons using interactive learning objects and multi-media on a SMARTboard
- Students requesting more questions on a quiz because they enjoy submitting their answers using response “clickers”
- Kindergarten students interacting and learning with their “weather buddies” in El Paso, Texas
- Teacher-Librarians using current, relevant subscription databases and online resources to teach information literacy and research skills to students – and teaching them how to use a wide variety of interactive presentation tools to share what they’ve learned in their research
- Grade 7 students participating in a videoconference with the Canadian Space Agency to learn about Mars rovers
- Students Skyping with an author to learn more about their books and their writing process
- Teachers sharing classroom information, links, podcasts, assignments and more with parents and students via their blogs and class websites
- Resource room teachers using iPad apps to help students with special learning needs
- High school teachers using collaborative tools like Google Docs and Quizlet to help their students work together online and review/learn content.
These are just a few of many examples I can share to demonstrate how technology is being utilized for relevant, positive purposes in our schools. Integrating these tools into our instruction helps teach students how to leverage available technologies to access information safely and purposely, and create and participate in powerful, meaningful projects and collaborations. In my professional role I do, and will continue to, promote and support this kind of use of technology in schools, and, as a parent, am delighted that my sons’ teachers are learning about and using these types of tools in their classrooms.
We often hear people state that “everything in moderation” is the key to success. This applies to food, work, leisure activities and more. Our children’s use of technology is no different. “Technology” is not bad for our kids – it’s all about the balance!