Last night I attended an information session for parents at my daughter’s high school. It was announced that her year level (Year 10 in 2011) will be a pilot for 1:1 MacBooks with a plan to roll it out throughout the school over the coming years. The bonus for 2011 parents was that it is funded almost completely by a government grant (DER)
The school has already trialled with small groups and extensively researched other schools experiences. As an ICT teacher, I know that this is nothing new – many schools have been 1:1 for many years and there is much research as to the effects of this technology. There is plenty of experience to learn from – both positive and negative. They were preaching to the converted in my seat ! I have a few reservations but they generally lie around the way the teachers adapt to the change.
The decision was well justified by the staff and the process of planning and training was detailled. My queries as to how well the staff had been trained to make this significant change in pedagogy were answered in an honest fashion – they have had training and will continue to have training – it is an evolving thing.
What amazed me was the negativity of a vocal minority of parents. The potential problems of teenagers having access to social media took over the discussion. “What’s to stop my child being on Facebook 24/7?” I gathered that the problems came from fear and lack of understanding. Upon further reflection, I realised that the underlying issue was a lack of trust some parents have in their own children. Thankfully, a balanced and sensible answer came – it is a twofold issue – at school your child will comply with the Acceptable Use policy that will be explained and applied. She/he will be taught responsible use and Cybersafe behaviours. At home, YOU are the parent – as such you make and apply the rules that you see fit in your household. This parent was scared of having a computer in his home – he spoke of disconnecting internet access for his children, blocking sites etc. I would hope that he could negotiate and discuss with his teenagers, but it seemed the power struggle was entrenched. I wonder if I am living in a false sense of security? I trust my teenagers, they know what is right and wrong, they are aware that if boundaries are extended, there will be consequences – the worst being the damage to the trust. The school staff exhibited a refreshing attitude, they are giving the students administrator rights – the staff and students know the rules and the consequences – there is a trust developing. I am not under the false allusion that there will not be breaches, but that doesn’t mean we have to constrain all because a few will test the system.
Another question came “How will my child learn to spell if she is typing all the time?”. Just that day, I had conducted a brief session with my 7 year old students on using Spell Check – those 7 year olds knew that the spell checker was not always right and not to rely on it. It had also, already been made abundantly clear, that the students would use the computers when and where appropriate and not all the time. Once again Fear overtook reason. Then I saw a great tweet “When written word was invented did people stop talking? Surely new tech isn’t the end of skill set, just the introduction of new ones” – seemed to answer the concerns for me!
I guess I was surprised at the level of fear in people generally my age (I assume as they have children the same age as mine). I think I would have expected more positivity – I am hoping the positive ones were quiet like me and regret not speaking up. I also wonder how many parents watched the presentation and wondered about the words “What’s a blog? a Forum ? a wiki?” My guess is that there would be many , but I presume they didn’t want to publicise their uncertainties. I can understand that, I suppose, but why could others announce their fears so loudly? I wonder how we get through to these fearful parents ?
After publishing this post I read Jacqui Sharp’s post about a parent education session and the same fear was evident. I am now planning (in my head at this stage) a Parent night for my school. Early in the new year (Feb2011 for Aus) we need to inform our parents of our plans, activities and get them on board. We can showcase the positives – the class and student blogs etc. I want them to understand why I believe blogging and engaging in the on-line world is such a positive thing – I want to alleviate the fear (or at least try). This is all relatively new to teachers so it is very fair that we need to spend time to bring parents onboard as well.
Perhaps if we get it right or at least start it better, at Primary school level, the staff at high schools won’t have such a hard time as those I watched last week.