Great question from a 1:1 Parent

At the end of my workday, I thought I’d glance at my reader and an article stood out to me immediately: Advice for Parents of 1:1 Programs by Jeff Utecht. It began with this question by a parent:

My son attends a school where MacBooks are required from grades 8-12, and students use many different assistive technology tools. I believe that 1:1 is great as a learning TOOL, but because students have their laptops with them all the time, there is no “down” time when they have to use their own initiative to think, dream, plan, create w/o a screen. He gets up and will open the laptop before breakfast to play, he will play or noodle around with his iTunes in the car on the way to school, on the way home from school, and every other time that kids used to be unplugged. He is not creating, he is consuming. It is a huge fight in our household.

What advice do you have for parents in dealing with this dark side-effect of a mandatory BYOL environment?

I like think that in the OES middle school, we are intentional about building a culture of use that aligns with our values, and Jeff’s answers resonated and validated so many of the ideas that I just blogged about. For example,

  1. Create Family Rules –> We say, “Create a Common Culture”
  2. Conversation, Conversation, Conversation –> We say, “Start the Conversation”
  3. We still know what’s best –> We say, no laptop use at lunch: run around and be social.

A couple things Jeff mentioned that I really like are,

  1. Remember that you are the parent. I think this is hard, especially when you do not understand the attraction of the game or the logistics of how to use the device. I GO THROUGH THIS, EVEN AS THE TECH COORDINATOR. Sometimes I force myself to explore games or sites (like Tumblr or FormSpring) just to stay somewhat in the loop.
  2. “Doing homework” is really just disguised mess-around time. Again, his advice is great: let there be natural consequences for not using time wisely. At OES, we have a school culture where parent-teacher communication and personalized attention is the norm, so you can set up a plan like this with the teacher. How much better that students learn the value of time management in middle school, where the stakes are fairly low, rather than waste 4 years of college because they couldn’t keep themselves off facebook and Call of Duty.
  3. What looks like consuming, isn’t always. It seems like they are just messing around on iTunes or games, but sometimes this is deeply creative. This is one reason that I’m a huge fan of Gaming to Learn with games like SimCity or Minecraft. To go further, one of the great things about a 1:1 program, in my opinion is that it develops the fluency of use to allow students to move past just consumption. In my experience, life-long learners are not satisfied with mere consumption and cannot help but give back. Hours of watching video on YouTube becomes fodder for iMovie projects or a couple months (or years) of following twitter feeds eventually turns into tweeting because of a familiarity with the medium and understanding of the social rules. Sometimes “just” consuming can also be pattern and culture recognition, such as what content or behavior allowed and rejected. And, what began today as a surf through my reader, resulted in this blog post and my very first comment on someone else’s blog.

Great question, great responses, and great affirmation of the partnership we do our best to nurture with kids and parents here at OES.


Staying Informed: Facebook

From our counselor: Adolescents are impulsive in their actions, focused on connecting to peers and taking risks. Thank goodness! Otherwise they would never have the courage to face the very scary world we live in and eventually leave home. The challenge is that technology feeds all three of these, and the results are not always conducive to a healthy, happy childhood.

Today, when kids turn 13, it’s not just about being a teenager: it’s about Facebook. The Facebook policy requires users to be 13, and signing up for an account, with all the connectedness it offers, might be equivalent to the Quinciñera or getting to vote.

This is where you (the adults) come in. Just as we don’t give them the keys to the car and wish them luck on the highway, we wouldn’t give them access to the internet without so much as a couple hours behind the wheel.

So as a parent (or teacher), how do you talk to your kid (student) about using facebook?

  • Know it yourself – have a facebook page. The best way to understand the experience is to be a part of it. If you kid loved lacrosse, you would probably pick up a stick or watch a couple games just to get a sense of it. Friend your kid. DON’T POST ON THEIR WALL.
  • Go through the account settings. I think of these as what others see about me. There are a lot of settings – you don’t have to do it all at once.
  • Go through the privacy settings. I think of these as who sees what I post. There are a lot of settings – you don’t have to do it all at once.
  • Show your child how to use the “View As” feature to see how their profile appears to the public or to their friends.

My mantra is that everything you share is PERMANENT & PUBLIC. Even on my personal account, I pretend my boss is looking over my shoulder. You never know who might see it.

Facebook is an amazing tool for connecting with friends and family across time and space. I play Scrabble against my mother who lives very far away, and it helps me feel more connected to her. On the other, if it becomes a world absent of adult guidance, like teenage drivers without navigation, it can become a tragic pile up of hurt feelings, broken friendships, and life-haunting videos from that one party in 8th grade.

Learning to manage social networks is a skill that kids need to be taught.

The first time I sat in the driver’s seat of my mom’s Pontiac Grand Am. It was the exhilarating taste of freedom. My mom worried that I would drive with the music too loud with my friends or not look all directions in the intersection. I was impulsive, peer-driven, and ignorant of the risks, but she sat next to me.

Maybe that’s what signing in to Facebook feels like. Same teenagers, different technology.