As I was playing catchup on my blog reading from the last couple of weeks, I came across a great post from Scott McLeod on the topic of parents choosing to opt out of their students having a device in a 1:1 setting. The major questions that Scott asks here are certainly ones that have been wrestled with in every school that has implemented a 1:1 program:
"Should parents have the right to refuse or limit a 1:1 initiative – or other educational technology usage – for their children? If so, in practical terms how would that work (e.g., would schools be required to provide analog assignments and/or homework)? What do you think?"
When it comes to supporting parents here in Burlington, my typical response is "we own the device, but you own the child." We need to try to work with parents to help them ensure that they can find the balance of screen-time that they feel is warranted for their children. The problem here, however, is that this is far from a black and white issue due to the fact that most debates on this topic we tend to leave out the purpose of the time that students spend online. Personally, I think there is a difference between a couple of hours spent researching and creating a multi-media project as opposed to a couple of hours spent playing candy crush.
With this in mind, it is imperative that schools communicate with parents in regards to the expectations for device use at home. What tasks will students have to have access to their device to perform? Also, what tasks will students be able to complete with devices that are already at home (and which parents have a better grasp on monitoring)? The comments on Scott''s post offer some wonderful insights into responding to these issues. One in particular comes from Sandy Kendell, an Educational Technology Specialist in Texas who provided the link to a great blog post Parent Concerns in a 1:1 Initiative. Kendell nails what is at the heart of the issue for parents:
"Keep in mind, the child being able to say, "I'm working on my homework" is somewhat of a game-changer when it comes to supporting and setting limits. How easily could you tell your child to just put the technology away when it could be impacting their grades?"
Sandy's post is one of the best I have read in regards to the conversations that need to take place in order to support the dramatic change that a 1:1 school can have for parents and students at home. Another must-read link in the comments is to Beth Holland's post The Balancing Act of Screentime. Beth really gets to the heart of the matter in regards to what we need to ask ourselves concerning device usage and our children by asking three simple questions:
- Is it Appropriate?
- Is it Meaningful?
- Is it Empowering?
It is definitely worthwhile to read all of the 32 comments from Scott's post. There is so much more to talk about on this topic. I particularly like the direction that Lyn Hilt takes the conversation in her comment about ensuring that work assigned as homework (whether on a device or not) is meaningful. However, I'll leave that for a discussion on another day.
cross-posted at www.patrickmlarkin.com
Patrick Larkin is the Assistant Superintendent for Learning of Burlington Public Schools in Burlington, MA and the former principal of Burlington High. He blogs about education at www.patrickmlarkin.com.