Monday, March 10, 2014

Please Check Your Phone Before Dinner Part One

This is not going to be a rant about how we all have our faces stuck in our phones.  As I said in an earlier post, I am a geek.  I love technology.  I am fascinated with things like the psychological effects of technology.  We are in the midst of a revolution in the way we communicate, produce, and manage the stuff of daily living.  These shifts in daily life will rival the changes of the Industrial Revolution.  Andrew McAfee is a professor at MIT. He points out that the Industrial Revolution multiplied our physical capacity as humans.  This Yet-to-be-named technological Revolution is multiplying our mental capacity as humans. ( TED Radio Hour Podcast, 2/28/2014 )
  I hear, "That's nice.  So what does that mean to me as a parent?"  Well, right at this moment your child might have their head stuck in some sort of device - iphone, tablet, laptop, etc.  Whatever it is, it's here to stay; and not just for gaming either.  If your child is in upper elementary school, they probably use a device to read.  They might also use it to communicate with friends.  (Just for fun, ask your child to remember the last time they talked to a friend on a land line phone.  Next ask them to remember the last time they used a cell phone or a text app for the same purpose.)  Moreover, while we all weren't paying attention, many schools have made it impossible to do schoolwork without using the internet.  Does your child still receive a paper report card?  Probably not.
  You can either throw up your hands and think, "I have no control over this so why even deal with it" or "I have no clue about any of this stuff, so I'm going to ignore it" or "This all makes me very nervous so I am going to restrict my child's access as much as I can."  I'm going to argue here that none of these approaches is going to help you, or your child live with technology mindfully.  Your children must learn that skill in order to be a successful adult.
  So how to do that?  Well, for starters you really need to know what's up with the technology.  Every once and awhile I give myself a reality check in a third grade classroom.  I'll ask, "In the last couple of weeks how many of you have helped Mom and Dad with something on the computer that they couldn't figure out?"  Most of the time 3/4 of the hands go up.  Millenials are the first generation that have known more about new technology than their parents.  "Oh, I know about computers", you say.  "I built my own.  Set up my own wifi network.  I can program."  Yep.  Can you tell me the hottest phone app right now?  Have you used Instagram at all?  Or Twitter?  Or Snapchat?  Can you get to a document in Dropbox?  The days of Microsoft Office as the most important thing are over.  Those that came of age in the last 15 years have moved on.

On the opposite end of the spectrum I might hear, "I can get to my email and I can text, but I can't really do anything else.  I don't really want to know more."  It's time to get more literate.  At the very least, you need to be able to comfortably access every tool your child needs to use for school.  Online grades, Edmodo, Khan Academy, Blackboard, Moodle, Weebly, Quizlet, Prezi; whatever they are using.  No excuses.  You need to understand what they have to do for school.  This is especially true in grades 5-8.

In the next installment, I will explain in more detail why this is important and offer some tips on using these tools mindfully.

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