Tools or tech toys?

I work for a company that develops services and maintains its own software platform. I like to think that my day-to-day dealings with our in-house IT department, software installation people, navigation and troubleshooting folks here at work has rubbed off on me enough so that I can operate around computers and various gadgets without looking like a complete bumbler.

Perhaps you’ll understand what a blow it is to my fragile techno-ego when my 11-year-old son surpasses me time and again with working knowledge and solution speed on pretty much any device we own in the house.

However, the slow learner in me refuses to accept the obvious fact that the generation behinds me is always going to be better at using any electronic, computer or “smart” device that the innovative free market can come up with.  That this particular generation has never known a time without such technology shows. So, I embrace and support technology in the classroom. However, I do have some concerns regarding the recent open, free-for-all policy that has been implemented at West Hills Elementary  STEM Academy for this school year.

It was announced through the local media on September 3rd that a pilot program had been crafted that would allow kids to bring their own personal technology devices to school for possible coordinated use in the classroom. It would not be a requirement by any means. Parents would choose to allow the devices to travel to and from school with students or not.

I think the kids’ being able to learn on their own devices is an excellent teaching opportunity. However, everything comes with a cost and needs to be well thought out, regulated and planned for.  We are now well into the second week of school.

The original announcement indicated several things that concerned me.  The first of which is the fact that these devices will be allowed out on the playground during a time when a significant amount of effort is being put into teaching children that playtime outside is important for overall heath when it involves physical activity.

A correct balance must be maintained between electronic device usage and the rest of a child’s social and physical activities in effort to  avoid childhood obesity.

The second piece of the original announcement talked about a contract that students will be asked to sign regarding use. As of now, students have only been told what is appropriate use of their personal equipment is. Nothing in the way of information or guidelines has made its way home to parents.  Nothing about this new policy has been listed on the district or individual school website.

As a West Hills Parent, I am at a complete loss on what this new policy is or even means. I’m also concerned about what students will or will not be able to access on the internet at school.  What I allow and find to be appropriate content for my child and have password protected on the devices he accesses, may or may not be what other parents restrict or allow. The whole thing begs a few questions such as what is going to be passed around on school property and school time?  And, what are the boundaries and consequences going to be?

This is a great idea that needed better preparation, planning and information access before implementation. I look forward to seeing, hearing and understanding what the school district and the schools distribute to parents about this new policy in the coming days and weeks. The information will better prepare a parent and “consumer” to best decide if and what type of devices go to school with a child.


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