Technology in School: Why Your Children Need That Laptop
Five years ago, when parents at Saigon South International School in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7 were asked to buy a laptop for our high school students, no one batted an eye. It made sense. The students were in high school and they needed access to the newest technology: Internet, word processors and spreadsheets. A few years later, netbooks were distributed to all middle school students and everyone was on board. Again, it seemed logical, as the middle school students were (somewhat) responsible and the netbooks could help with projects, collaboration and blogging.
However, when it was announced two years ago that all students in grades 4 to 12 would need to bring a Macbook to school the next year, there was uproar.
Image source: lbusd.k12.ca.us
“Do our students really all need such an expensive device for school?” I was not the only one thinking, “I went to school without a computer and did just fine, thank you.” My older children were in elementary school just a few years ago and they did not have laptops.
Embracing the Change
It has been a little over a year and I must admit defeat. The experiences that my youngest child encounters because she and all of her classmates have the same devices, and have access to them every day, introduce her to apps and programmes in a very different way than what her older siblings had and were used to just eight years before.
Today, children have the possibility to create video, write a paper or programme a robot to demonstrate what they have learned.
They no longer just come up with ideas on how to conserve electricity and then write a paper they will promptly forget; by using technology, they become engineers who can create prototypes and have the chance to test their theories. Plus, they have a more authentic learning experience.
Learning computer languages or some level of coding is now a necessary skill much like tying your shoelaces. It is something children should learn when they are young because they will need it for the future. By building on their fundamental writing skills, students who understand computer languages are able to expand their work into multi-media rich projects which enhance both writing and oral skills. In turn, this allows for their work to be shared with a wider audience.
Our children are growing up in an age where digital or information literacy is just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. The ability to gather, create and distribute thoughts and ideas through electronic communication is vital and at the same time overwhelming.
Students must be taught how to correctly discern between reputable and disreputable sources, and to understand the responsibilities and ethical considerations that come with using technologies such as social media and the Internet. This needs to be a collaboration between schools and home.
Schools help students to manage behaviours through their acceptable use policies, targeted instruction and by creating electronic barriers like hardware and software controls. Parents also need to be involved; placing limits on the times and location of computer usage at home help with supervision.
Programmes such as Anti-Social or SelfControl allow parents to block sites for pre-determined amounts of time while Freedom blocks the whole of the internet for up to eight hours. It is best to remove all electronics in the evenings to ensure a good night’s sleep.
We all went to school, feel we are successful and therefore believe we have an idea of how schools should be set up.
As technology becomes more and more integrated into our children’s school experiences, schools are asking parents to take a leap of faith and trust them as professionals.
Today’s innovative teachers are already thinking of ways to re-imagine school, redesign learning spaces and create an overall better learning environment for the students. Many professional development conferences are being held throughout the region, which means that students will continue to have more authentic, project-based experiences in their classrooms.
Image source: wsj.com
They will continue to be faced with finding solutions to real-world problems, to turn the abstract into concrete. I am not sure what will happen to schools in the longer run, but I for one am excited to see what the future holds.