Being the technology integration specialist in my 1:1 middle school, you would think that I get to experience the wonders of technology on a daily basis. And you’d be right. But I also get to experience the worries. Students, just like adults, make bad choices, and those made with technology can be profound. I have had conversations with many teachers and parents about the difficulty of having students who have technology in their hands 24/7. Such power can be a wonderful and dangerous thing. Usually these conversations boil down to one of two things: restrict the technology or take it away.
Restricting technology is the act of blocking access to apps and/or websites on the device. While this seems like a great option for students who have trouble with controlling themselves and their time on technology, it doesn’t often work the way people wish it to. Restrictions always have limitations. And those limitations can be breached. Always. We have tried locking down iPads, and it has never completely worked. If students want to message other students, no amount of blocking or restricting will stop them from doing it. I can block an app, but they will find another one. If students want to be on Facebook, they will find a way, no matter how many methods I impose. It has never ceased to amaze me their ability to get around restrictions and how hard they will work to do so. It is a sad fact, but reality. Where there is a will, there is a way.
The other option, taking away technology, has been a less explored option. I often hear, “I never had any technology growing up, and I turned out fine.” But, our school invests in an education that requires students to be connected, not only to each other, but to the world. Although removing technology from the hands of a student has been an extreme option, I feel when this happens, these students are missing out on learning opportunities that the majority of us have never been able to have. The skills that students can now learn through the use of technology in this fast paced society are of great importance for our future.
So the question begs to be asked, Why do students need technology? What are we teaching kids these days anyway?
Technology has broken down the walls of our classroom and created a living and breathing world at our fingertips. One we can touch, and see, and hear, and believe in. We need to teach students the true power of technology and how to handle that power with care, concern, and responsibility. Technology has the ability to transform, to teach students more than they have ever had the chance to learn before. It forces students to take skills that should be learned to the next level, employing them in new ways for our ever changing society.
What we as a society really need to see is the importance of shifting our view of technology and the classroom. Instead of seeing roadblocks, changes, work, challenges, and the death of education, we should see opportunities, hope, perspective, and a new world. Technology should be used to help students have authentic, engaging moments during the school day. The power of our current technology has the ability to revolutionize our world, and it starts with our students. Let’s grab hold of and invest in even the tiniest bit of that power, harnessing it for what we should be teaching kids these days anyway:
To be brave: Reach out and find those who think like you do, who you can learn from, who motivate you. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, be original, stand out. Think differently. Then share yourself with the world because it wants you.
To learn something new: Take the knowledge we’ve known for centuries, grow from it, then make it your own. Create something new and give it to the world, because the world deserves it.
To be critical thinkers: Ask questions, evaluate and critique the answers, formulate responses. Share these with the world, because it wants to hear what you have to say.
To ask for help: Communicate to find assistance. Seek out understanding. Find those who care. Then support others in our world, because they need you.
To appreciate: Give thanks to those who came before you, to those who will come after you, and to those who will challenge you. They are the ones who will create who you are to become. Then let the world appreciate you back.
To inspire others: Make people think. Make people wonder. Make people change. Help others find their calling and then find yours. Solve the world’s problems together: collaborate, dream, believe.
To fly: Grow you wings, tend to them, and soar beyond your highest heights. The world is waiting for you.
And in all of this, each and every one of us, parents, teachers, administrators, friends, and community, should be by their side, helping them make connections, contact people around the world, effectively communicate, steer their decisions, raise questions, and be their advocate, their cheerleader, and their confidant. Because that is what they, and the world, need now more than ever.