(Caveat- this post does NOT reflect the views of RSU2 or the administration of same. The viewpoints in this post are those of the author only and do not represent policy of the RSU2 school district).
My cousin finds himself in an unusual spot. At 54, his friends and colleagues are looking forward to college graduations and weddings for their offspring. Truth be told, he’s been through the “father of the bride” routine himself. Most of the time, however, he finds himself shuttling his second family from karate to Little League to ballet as the father of 3 under 12. His frustration with the pace sometimes shows up in his FaceBook posts. One of his friends offered sage advice: “Let go or be dragged.”
Five short words that speak volumes. As often happens, I looked at this phrase through the lens of education. We are rapidly approaching the time when, no matter how fast we run, we can’t keep “control” of our kids with technology. The tools and technology have simply outpaced our ability to keep our kids where we want them to be easily.
Here’s an example. In 2008, 71% percent of kids had cell phones. According to Pew Research, 19% of Americans used a mobile phone to access the internet on any given day. In 2007, the number was 11%. Today, 32% of Americans have mobile internet service. It’s anticipated that 43.5% of users will have internet access on mobile phones by 2013– the year today’s freshmen graduate from high school.
The time is coming when most cell phone plans will offer internet access as a standard feature. 3G networks are making their way across the country. Students often have internet access on three different devices at once- their iPods, their cell phones, and their laptops.
How is this relevant? It means that in short order, our kids will have filters on their 1:1 computers that are not on their phones or iPods. The student who can’t access FaceBook on their laptop will be freely able to post status messages on their phone from English class. It will quickly make our filtering and “control” systems obsolete.
So what do we do? We can’t “keep track” of what they are doing, who they are talking to, and where they are going to access information. It brings up the question- should we?
I imagine what it must be like for a college freshman in 2010. All through high school, they have worked on a laptop that has had iChat blocked. Their webcam is disabled. They have been filtered so that they can’t access YouTube. All of the control of their behavior has been external. Three months after graduation we have opened all the gates and said “Here. You have a diploma and all the ability to monitor your behavior. Go forth unto college and be successful, even though you haven’t had the ability to monitor YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR WITH TECHNOLOGY WHILE YOU ARE AT SCHOOL.” Kind of like always telling a kid when to cross the street without teaching them to look both ways first.
We are charged, as high school teachers, to create a population that is ready to move into a 21st century world. We are asking students to hone skills that use collaboration, communication and critical thinking, and at the same time tying their hands. Why not give them the tools they need to develop these skills, and teach them to use them responsibly? I’m not advocating that every student is ready for every option that is available to them. The important thing is to teach acceptable use at every turn and use “indiscretions” as opportunities to make students understand how important that acceptable use is. Sometimes, we may need to restrict access to certain elements for students who are unable to manage them given their maturity level. Let’s not paint all students with the same brush and assume that because a few of them are not ready that ALL of them are not ready.
The bottom line is that both teachers and parents need to take a hard look at how they manage technology both at school and at home. Its going to require a paradigm shift for all of us. Teachers need to think about how they teach. Pedagogy and classroom management will have to change. Parents will need to educate themselves about what they are providing for their children and how they can monitor and manage the technology at home. We need to be prepared for the changes that are coming.