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.


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