Technology changing education

Published 9:14 am Thursday, September 6, 2018

Boy, how times change.

Can kids even be kids any more? Not as folks of my advancing age remember.

My kindergarten-aged granddaughter gets it. She knows what an app is on a smart phone, and what an app can do. When her mother showed her that she gets instant updates on her behavior in school, the little princess replied: “This can’t be good.”

She gets it.

Do mom and dad have to know everything?

If you’re a parent, the answer is a quick yes. There are temptations and choices out there that weren’t there when I was a kid, much less your ancient grandparents who remember when electricity was invented. And many of those temptations and dangers can be linked to our smart phones and other online devices, that make every cure and every sin just a fingertip away.

Pretty scary stuff.

Put me in the grandparents category. I don’t remember life without electricity, but there were no apps and smart phones or easy ways for teachers to get in touch with parents.

Parent conferences weren’t the norm in my day. There were open houses and PTA meetings, but parents and teachers didn’t always know each other. There was no instant communication from the teacher, school or district as there is now. The teacher may send a note home for you to remind your parents about something, but if you didn’t want them to know …

We had report cards, with grades hand written on paper. It was way too tempting for many people to try to change that “D” to a “B,” and some even got away with it, or so they said. Tried even more was forging a parents’ signature. That sometimes worked, as well. Forget trying that now. The grades are out there, and you can bet parents have access.

There was a space on that report card for “conduct.” Usually, it was either satisfactory or unsastifactory. It didn’t say that you had bullied a classmate. It didn’t say that you talked too much. It didn’t say you used bad words. It didn’t say you put a frog down Little Suzie’s shirt. Just unsatisfactory. Parents were confused by that one. What did it mean? Most parents would have checked the unsatisfactory box for behavior at home, as well.

My downfall was the space where teachers could write comments. It was a short space, so there wasn’t room for details. Mine usually said: “Mike does not work up to his potential.” Looking back, I think those teachers may have been calling me lazy; but in reality, it sucks having an older brother and sisters who had the same teachers, and who mastered every task put before them.

Looking back, the good old days in school may not have been so good, after all. Not for students, and definitely not for parents.

We have this new technology – that’s changing as this article is being written – that allows parents to know when you misbehave at school, that allows parents to track academic progress, that allows parents to know everything you did that day.

Heck, given enough information, most parents can figure out for themselves if you’re meeting your potential.

Yes, it’s OK to long for the good old days. But embrace this new technology. It’s not going away. It allows your students to do research and discover amazing things an encyclopedia just can’t bring to life. It allows them to interact with students from across the district, state, nation and world. It puts information at their fingertips. But it’s up to us to make sure it is the right information. Along with all of the amazing things technology gives us, there are things out there no child should ever see.

Happy browsing.

– Mike Barnhardt