Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to School Tech - What do you really need?

The evenings are a bit cooler, the leaves are starting to change colours and there are aisles full of school supplies at your favourite store. It must be fall! Time to get back into routine and return back to school.

If you listen to all the ads and news stories out there about "Back to School", you might think that it means parents should be forking over hundreds of dollars to get their kids ready to return to the classroom.

This time of year can be expensive, especially considering after-school activities are also asking for registration fees and may require new or special equipment in order to participate.

But what does your child really need to go back to school?

As an educator who is passionate about integrating technology into the classroom, you are probably expecting me to encourage you to buy your child the latest and greatest technological gadget. Or maybe say, "forget the notepaper and pens, an iPad is where it is at!"

But the more I think about it, the less I think is required for students to be ready for a new school year. Yes, buying new things helps get kids excited about starting back to school, but do you really need to spend hundreds of dollars every fall?

It is important to think about your child and what their needs really are before hitting the mall or clicking on a favourite shopping website. When it comes to technology, more thought needs to be put into what you already have as a family and what your child really needs to help them learn. Does your child need the latest and greatest tech toy out there? Is the laptop you bought last year still meet the needs of your teen in high school? 

Ideally, every school would have adequate funding to ensure that every child be provided with the computer and/or device that is appropriate for their age and grade level. Unfortunately, schools don't have the means to provide these tech tools to the degree they would like to. That means sharing limited devices and computers and having limited opportunities to learn in a technology supported environment. This doesn't mean that you need to run out and buy your child a laptop, smartphone and iPad for them to be successful in school. You need to decide what your child's school allows them to use in the classroom (is it a school that allows access to their wireless network and encourages them to bring their own devices). You need to also consider the maturity of your child and the added responsibility you are putting on them by making them responsible for an expensive device.

You also need to ensure that your child understands your expectations when it comes to technology access and what responsibilities come with this access. Digital citizenship can be taught at school but also needs to be reinforced at home through honest conversations and monitoring of your child's online activities. They are building a digital legacy that can follow them their entire lives.

Lastly, I believe that the best thing you can do to support your child in school is to develop a good working relationship with their teacher(s) by ensuring that you have open and honest communications. Your child should know and understand what technology they have available to them at home so that they can discuss problems with their teacher if homework is assigned that they can't do at home, such as lack of internet access or limited computer access. That way, the teacher can discuss these issues with your child and help support them at school to ensure they have access to the technology they require to complete assignments.  

1 comment:

  1. Yes, children do seem to 'expect' all the latest technology these days! And it is only helpful at school if it is embraced by the teachers, otherwise it can be a distraction. The way to go in the future is probably encouraging more independent work and that teachers beome facilitators. There is also the issue of respect - if every child was given a laptop in the UK, would they respect it? Interesting points, thanks for your article.