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Distractions Galore

I read an article in The Age newspaper (11/1/2017) written by a secondary school teacher, Emily Hehir, regarding the battle she has with her secondary school students and the use of technology in the classroom. As I was reading the article, I found myself nodding in agreeance with her and can easily relate to what she is saying. As an educator, we are being told that we need to teach children how to use technology and this is the future and it will improve student learning outcomes if implemented correctly. This may be true, but with technology being introduced into our children’s lives from such an early age, I believe there comes a level of responsibility from our schools to parents and their students to educate them not just with the fundamentals of technology per-se, but equipping students and parents with the knowledge, skills and emotional support to deal with everything that comes with technology. My daughter attended a primary school that had the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program. In Grade 5 we were required to purchase her an iPad for school which was to be used on a daily basis in the classroom. We were told what apps to purchase and an information session was held for parents if they wanted to attend. Would we have purchased our daughter an iPad had it not been a requirement for school in Grade 5? Definitely not.

All of a sudden, we had our 11 year old daughter with an iPad who is instantly exposed to social media through her peers. We found ourselves learning along the way with the instant messaging and ‘group chats.’ Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat were not negotiable until I had researched and navigated my way through them and had an understanding of how to use them. Some of her peers had access to their own iTunes account and could download and purchase anything whenever they wanted because their parents were either naïve or just set it up that way trusting their child wouldn’t take advantage of it!

Fortunately, my husband is tech savvy and we had all passwords and restrictions on iTunes and to this day, we still do because she is now a teenager! Even though that was a recommendation from the school information session, not every parent attended that session so that there is an issue in itself. I approached the school about running an information session for parents and students together about the use of various social media platforms, appropriate use, privacy, sharing photos of students, cyber safety and more but this wasn’t seen as necessary.

As an educator, I believe these information sessions need to be compulsory for parents and students so everyone has an understanding of expectations. Yes, very hard to monitor but needed. There has been a gradual increase in the amount of parents who have allowed their children to access Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat and then find themselves asking the school to deal with online bullying which can flow over into the playground. There lies the importance of education for everyone and raises more questions about the appropriateness of these social media platforms. Why are we allowing our children access to them at such a young age? Is it because their peers are allowed, are they being hounded by their children and it is just easier to give in? My feeling is that parents don’t know enough about these social media platforms and think their child will be ok. As Emily mentions in her article, she is battling the distractions from the outside world, the instant messaging, dinging, pinging and everything else. Not only does she battle monitoring that and putting restrictions in place, Emily, like myself, are supposed to educate our students at the same time.

As a primary school teacher, we ask our students with mobile phones, to turn them off and they stay in my top drawer until the end of the day. With an iPad which is owned by the student, it is very difficult to ensure they have their notifications switched off during the day to social media as we have little control over what apps their parents allow them to load on or what they have loaded on themselves. That in itself is a whole other issue. When schools provide iPads for the classroom, we have the control over the apps, internet access and security to prevent the distractions from the outside world. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for technology in our education for our students. It can be a wonderful tool for students with learning difficulties like Dyslexia, students who struggle to write and they can make use of voice to text tools, but in saying this, I think there needs to be more of a responsibility taken by schools and parents to ensure they work hand in hand together. We wouldn’t let our kids go and drive a car without lessons and understanding the road laws and I don’t see this any different.

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