Advice for parents in supporting girls’ utilization of contemporary technologies

I find there is tension between wanting kids to be adequately experienced in using contemporary technology and at the same time worrying about kids being socially disadvantaged if technologies are limited. There may also be worry about excessive use causing distraction and impacting children’s growth and well-being. Some advice columns may suggest parents access resources and become more informed.  Sites I commonly suggest include Media Smarts – http://mediasmarts.ca/ and Common Sense Media – https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

 

Advice may also include guidelines or rules for using technology.  For example, banning devices from the dinner table or requiring children hand-in their devices before bed time. Setting guidelines is important. But, what else can parents do?  I will admit that I don’t have any quick- fix tips for you.  As a researcher in this area, I also experience difficulties in this area and struggle with these tensions as well.

 

One key piece of advice beyond becoming more informed and setting guidelines, is to have conversations with your child by asking questions. Research indicates that having a strong parent-teen relationship and having regular discussions with children can reduce risky online behaviors and impact adolescent’s decisions. Depending on the age of your child, you may need to adapt the questions.  Also, don’t wait until there’s an issue to have the conversation and ask questions. Technology is continuously changing, so continuous communication is necessary with our children. Here’s some examples of questions I use:

  1. How can I best help or support you to use technology?
  2. How are you monitoring your own screen-media usage? How do the reports help you?
  3. What is your perception of gender differences at home/school/or other places in the community regarding use of technology? Do you have any examples of gender differences?
  4. How are you using technology in school? How are you using technology for consuming information or creating? How do you wish you were using technology in schools? How do you think technology could be used to help you learn?
  5. How do you perceive my actions/modeling of use of technology? Give me two stars and one wish for how I currently use technology.

 

You might find some of the responses surprise you or may not be exactly what you expected. We need generative conversations to develop a contemporary image of technology use for learning and we need to involve our girls in leading this conversation. What other questions would you suggest?

 

Should cell phones be banned from classrooms?

I was invited to respond to a school ban on cellphone use in a CTV two Alberta Primetime interview this week.

The interview was prompted by information about a Toronto middle school ban on cellphones in classrooms – http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/toronto-school-bans-cellphones-from-classrooms-1.3295140

I learned this type of interview is called a double-header interview. In this case, the interviews occurred at the same time but in different locations. I was interviewed at a studio in Calgary and the other participant and host were located in the Edmonton studio.  This meant I was in a broadcast room in Calgary looking at a camera and could not see the host or other participants during the interview.  I could only hear the audio through an earpiece.

As I prepared for the interview, I tried to think of key messages that I wanted to communicate.  Here’s some of the key messages based on research that I have been involved in over many years as well as professional experiences in teaching and leading in K-12 and post-secondary environments:

  • A balanced approach is needed with a focus on learning.
  • Allowing students to use mobile devices and particularly their own mobile devices in schools requires intentional design by the teachers and school administrators.
  • There are benefits for learners of all ages. In research I have been involved in from K-12, we have observed when students are intellectually engaged, they use technology in meaningful ways. Likewise, when students are disengaged in learning, they use technology for non-educational purposes.
  • Learning can be scaffolded where learners are provided with increasing responsibility in using the tools of their day. As educators we have responsibility in designing learning opportunities that are meaningful in a digital age.  We have a responsibility to coach students when they encounter difficulties in learning. We can’t expect students will automatically know how to use technologies responsibly without providing any opportunities for learning WITH technologies in school.
  • When we ban cell phones, we are not promoting balance and we are not promoting learning for today’s students with today’s tools for learning.
  • The fear of managing situations arising from the use of cell phones often moves a school to making decisions such as completely banning these devices instead of dealing with the structural causes or other underlying causes of the misbehaviors and helping youngsters, teachers, school leaders and parents learn from the situations. Banning cell phones avoids the issues.  We can spend time patrolling to make sure the rules are followed or we can spend time designing meaning learning opportunities. Banning cell phones eliminates opportunities for learning and this includes opportunities for learning from our failures.
  • We miss critical learning opportunities both when we ban cell phones and when we allow for unguided and unlimited use. Let’s aim for a balanced approach where we make learning the focus and use the tools in meaningful and ethical ways.

 

Here’s a link to the video:

http://alberta.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1070078&binId=1.2002989&playlistPageNum=1

 

Ice Bucket Challenge Sponsors Family Discussion about Digital Citizenship

The ALS ice bucket challenge is a current phenomenon taking over social media pages and even family dinnertime conversations. I believe initiatives for raising awareness and funds for good causes are good ideas. The ice bucket challenge has definitely raised awareness of ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and increased funds for the ALS association. I also believe these types of initiatives provide important opportunities for conversations with our children about digital citizenship.  Our family was recently nominated to take the challenge. I do not wish to offend those nominating us or in any way suggest ALS is not a good cause, but we declined to take the challenge as a digital citizenship choice. In our house, this topic provided good conversation about charity donations, posting self-videos on the Internet and following the crowd.

  1. Charity donations – MacAskill (2014) http:http://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadshttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadsqz.comhttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploads249649http://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadsthe-cold-hard-truth-about-the-ice-bucket-challengehttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploads discusses the idea that most individuals are limited in how much they donate yearly.  As such, charity donations need to be thoughtful.  So, as a family it is important to discuss how donations will be made throughout the year. For example, we have friends that have two children with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. This gradually progressive disease means these children are not able to walk and experience many physical and medical challenges. We support the Walk for Muscular Dystrophy and hope for increased research and medical advances to help those afflicted by Muscular Dystrophy to enjoy quality of life. We also donate to many other charities to support family and friends experiencing various medical challenges, such as Cystic Fibrosis, Cerebral Palsy, Diabetes, Heart and Stroke, Cancer, to name a few.  We are selective in the charities we donate and pay close attention the amount that goes to administrative fees.  In our home the ice bucket challenge has definitely increased attention to ALS and other charities.  Hopefully the increased funds going to one organization do not limit or reduce funds going to others.
  2. Posting videos on the Internet – We also discussed the idea of posting videos of yourself on the Internet.  Many family, friends and even well-known celebrities are posting videos and making their ice bucket challenge visible in online spaces. We discussed the importance of carefully selecting the type of photos and videos posted on the Internet and to consider the attire you might be wearing in the video.
  3. Following the crowd – Similar to the idea in chain letters, those taking the challenge, nominate three more individuals to take the challenge. It is so easy to become enamored with an idea because so many people are involved and participating in the challenge. Since _____ is doing this, then it must be a good thing and I should do this too.  We want our children to make informed choices and make decisions themselves.  We also want our children to take risks and go against the status quo.  So, I believe the ice bucket challenge is a good opportunity to have an open discussion with your children about the choice of either participating in the challenge or declining the challenge.

    Some other posts to consider:

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    The cold, hard truth about the ice bucket challenge

    Post written by MacAskill (Aug 14, 2014)

     

    http:http://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadshttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadshealthimpactnews.comhttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploads2014http://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploadsals-ice-bucket-challenge-do-you-know-what-you-are-supportinghttp://www.drbarbbrown.com/wp-content/uploads

    ALS ice bucket challenge: Do you know what you are supporting?

    (August 24, 2014)