Since I have shifted my news-junkie habits from print media to my computer, I find myself screen-screaming more often than is good for my health. The object of my screaming is often educators who think they are properly taking a stand against the evil encroachment of technology into the education system. For whatever reasons, Tech, and the internet specifically, cause disruption of what, according to many educators, should be a highly controlled environment.
Educators must now deal with distractions from students’ cell phones. Students are texting during class. Students are playing video games during lectures. The cyber bullying is getting out of hand. Kids can be lured from the safety of the school or home by child predators. They can even search for answers to tests on Google or Bing. An even tougher issue to deal with is the children’s ability to access porn. These are some of the problems that educators and parents need to deal with in the 21st Century. Whether real or imagined, if these problems are negatively affecting our children they need to be addressed. There is no question about their existence, only a difference in approach to the solution. As I read the text on my screen of proposals for solutions by education leaders, my dog runs from the room in fear as I expel vocal outbursts of profanity. Will these Education leaders choose to deal or not deal with the problems?
In order to address these problems, we need to understand the role of technology in the lives of children and not adults. Any of us, over 25 years of age, (I am considerably more) have had a choice about our technology involvement. The older one is, the more choice of technology involvement one has had. Children today have no such choice. Their world is all tech. They use it at home, in school, at the Library, and in the supermarket. They have been in front of a computer of some sort since before they could talk. Toy manufacturers know this and create Social Media platforms to engage children. They recognize the power of social learning. Check out Webkins or Club Penguin. For these children it is an easy transition to MySpace or Facebook. Educators have two choices. Either they acknowledge that kids are doing social networking and teach them to be appropriate and responsible online, or they can ban it from the school, ignoring to address any skills. Education must take place from the age that these kids are beginning their technology involvement. Ask what choice your school has made. I hesitate to ask for the sake of my dog again running away from the din of expletives not deleted.
Cyber Bullying is a real problem. Bullying itself has been an issue that we have always dealt with. Now however, with the use of technology, it can have devastating effects in a short period of time. This is another issue that needs to be addressed with education. Even before Columbine, we recognized the horrible effects of bullying on individuals. We cannot expect it to fix itself without someone stepping up and addressing the problem with education. The other choice is to ignore it until there is a problem and then bring in counselors and psychologists to the school to help everyone deal with the consequences.
Distractions from texting or game playing are another problem for some. This is especially an issue in Higher Ed, since many secondary schools ban laptops and cell phones. Accessing inappropriate sites is another issue. The inappropriate use of technology is a social issue that must be addressed through education. The consequences for abuse or misuse of technology must be taught to our children at an early age. Maybe after we educate them we can attend a play without needing an announcement to turn off all cell phones. People will know, because they were taught.
We do not need Acceptable Use Policies for technology. We do not have Library Use Policy, Cafeteria Use Policy or a Playground Use Policy. The misuse and abuse of technology is behavior and requires a common sense conduct policy. Any such policy will define the infractions and also the consequences of the poor decisions. Technology is not outside what we do in Education, it is a big part of what we do in education. If it is integrated, then it should not require a different set of rules to govern it. We educate and test people in driving and our laws cover traffic infractions. I do not remember agreeing to an automobile use policy.
The biggest obstacle we have in Education in regard to technology is the parent perception of child safety on the internet. I am not going to say that there is not a safety issue here. We are driven however by the high interest “gottcha” programming of nabbing internet child predators on TV. We need to educate children and parents how to safely and responsibly navigate the internet. The elephant in the room however, is the fact that if a child is going to be a victim of sexual abuse, it is most likely to come from a family member or friend, or someone they know, and not an internet predator. We all need to be educated.
If we choose to view technology in our society as a problem and not teach our children safe and responsible use, then ban technology from school. That plan will not work however, if you do not ban it from your home, and your neighbor’s home, and your other family members’ homes’ and the library. I am sure I left someone out.
Our educational leaders have a choice; Deal with the issue with education, or do not deal with it by banning it. A ban will leave the problem for others to deal with after it becomes a larger issue. In the not too distant future, when technology is a ubiquitous tool of education, people with cooler heads will look back at this time and question the leaders. “What the hell were they thinking?”
My final thought on this subject is a mystery. If schools ban and filter the Internet for “Student Safety”, what is the rationale for filtering and banning the teachers as well? Are they not responsible adults? Leaders Deal, or No Deal?