ipads, ipads Everywhere…

Technology surrounds us whether we want it to or not. Most of the time it is useful and enhances our daily lives to some degree and at times we are barely aware of it. But the debate surrounding ipads in our local schools is causing me to consider the question, “How much technology is too much?”

Some of our locals schools are part of a program called 1:World. This program provides an ipad for every child at the school. In many instances the ipad will be able to travel to and from school with the child. At first glance, I understand this to be a wonderful opportunity for ALL students to have access to the technology that, in many circumstances, is accessible only to the select families that can afford it. But lately I have been hearing some parents in the communities offering this program speak out about their concerns regarding the program and its design. In particular, some concerns include:

  • the remote access that the teachers will have
  • the liability involved in giving students such technology
  • the lack of understanding the educational purpose for the technology
  • the lack of parental controls allowed on the devices
  • the shift in funding from hiring teachers to purchasing ipads (the ipads are funded with grant money but many parents would still like to see teachers hired instead of ipads)
  • the insurance fee parents must pay associated with the use of the device (there may be financial support for families that can’t afford the insurance fees)

I am sure as this program gets rolling there will be added concerns and more conversations to follow. Change is rarely without controversy. Remember when televisions first appeared in the home? T.V.s were labeled “The Devil” by many (that continues today to a lesser degree). In short, much of these conversations are to be expected. But I still find myself asking, “What do I need to do as a responsible parent?”, “How do I become informed enough to be comfortable with this trend?”

First, I have engaged in several conversations about these issues with: my partner, other parents that I trust, and school and district staff. I have attended meetings where concerns about the 1:World program has been openly discussed and questions have been answered by school and district staff.

I have not concluded that this is a perfect program. I still continue to raise my own concerns and plan to actively seek answers. But for the time being I have become keenly aware of the conundrum that I find myself (and many other parents) in. While we (parents) want our students to have access to technology because we recognize the seemingly endless learning and creative opportunities associated with technology, many of us have reservations when we feel our control over our children’s access to, and use of, technology is limited or challenged. We fear the risks, even when we are not clear as to exactly what they may be. So how do we move forward toward accepting, end eventually embracing, the inevitability of technology permeating our lives and our children’s lives?

The first thing parents can do is stay informed. Talk to each other. Ask questions. Be present. When your child brings home the device be aware of how your child uses it. Talk to your child about what they do with the devices in at school and what the expectations are for at-home use of the devise. Handle the devise yourself. Even though the device is issued by the school, parents should be able to operate it. Always know your child’s passcode. This should be a standard parental expectation for all devices in the home. At first, parents can require that their student use the device in their presence, like the family room or kitchen rather than alone in the child’s bedroom with the door closed. Watch as your child uses the devise, ask questions about what they are doing and ask if it is helping them learn and why.

All of these suggestions should help parents feel more comfortable and engaged enough to monitor, or at least be aware, of their student’s use of the ipads they are given by the school. If something should happen that you feel uncomfortable with, take responsibility and inform the school and district staff immediately. Parents should always consider their children’s safety a priority, especially when engaging in technology. Technology advances faster than we can keep up with it and there are new, and often questionable, ways to interact with technology discovered daily. Our ability to stay informed will help keep our students safe while give them  access to trending technology and opportunity and support our schools as we try to negotiate the world of advancing technology.