When a parent comes into school to discuss technology, they are typically not there to share positive feedback about all the recent wonderful integration lessons that have been going on in the classroom. It is usually just the opposite—concerns about how their student is accessing, using, overusing, or manipulating the technology in the classroom.
Although some of these concerns might be misplaced or lack knowledge about exactly what is going on, other concerns are very valid and need to be considered. So as a teacher or principal, it will be helpful to consider how to prepare for these concerns.
Here are some examples of concerns parents discussed with me when I was a principal:
Too much screen time: Parents who are concerned about this probably already limit screen time at home. If students have 30 minutes at home, they might be concerned to hear that their students have three hours of screen time during the school day. The best response to this is to have factual information to support the truth to the concern. How much screen time are students actually getting? Once this piece of information is known, it is easier to create a response. Who knows, maybe this information will help to guide future practice in the classroom.
Lack of movement: Like the screen time concern, the parents who are concerned most about this probably encourage their students to be active outside of school. The concern is that students sit too much during the school day already and technology just makes this problem worse. For me, the best response is encouraging teachers to use technology that integrates movement. There is validity to the concern about students being too sedentary in the classroom, and this is a great solution.
Lack of social interactions: Social interactions are what kids need more of—not less. For the most part, I believe that this is a misunderstanding more than a concern. While it is true that students are communicating less face to face than ever before, this isn’t really the case at school. Students have much more direct interaction at school, even if they have a device they are also using. Hopefully we are working on ways to help students navigate the world of social media in a positive way.
Access to inappropriate material: I believe that this would be the most common concern if parents were surveyed. There is so much out there and it’s so easy to get to, it can seem almost impossible to stop. Schools collecting E-Rate money are required to have filtering and child protection software in place. The good news is that these filtering and scanning tools are becoming better and more sophisticated all the time. We cannot reassure parents that this will never happen at school, but the likelihood of it happening through a school device is much less than through any other means.
Not focusing on educational use: Many parents worry that all their students are doing with the technology is listening to music and playing games—this concern should be addressed immediately. There are times when students exaggerate this claim, but even it if is happening, there needs to be good reason for it. As a former computer applications teacher, I know that some students will find every which way to get to the games and media that they enjoy. Because of this, teachers must be vigilant when monitoring students’ technology use. Like the filtering of inappropriate material, there are many software options that districts can use to help support teachers in this area.
And while these are just a few ideas for how to respond to parents and their concerns about technology, I’m sure there are many others. The point isn’t that a person could copy and paste these responses to parents—that isn’t the intent of this article. Rather, teachers, schools, and districts should think through the role of technology use in schools and how we can partner with parents for the best educational experience possible.
Students need to learn to use technology and use it appropriately. This is the core mission of our schools—to prepare students for the future. But in doing so, we must not leave parents behind and ignore the important role they play in this discussion. While it is true that times have changed over the past few decades, many of the universal best practices for teaching have not. When we speak of engaging students, monitoring their work, and facilitating movement around the classroom, we aren’t solving problems that didn’t exist 50 years ago. What we are doing is solving them in different ways. Hopefully by listening to and collaborating with parents, we can ensure great, safe, and engaging learning is taking place.
Want to get more tips about how to incorporate and launch technology in your schools and classrooms? Check out our Launch Tech in Your Schools Successfully guide!>>