Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Protecting Students In The Screen Age: An Action Tool For Parents And Teachers

It has been just a month since this piece ran at Forbes.com, but what a month. In some ways, the protections for students regarding screens are even more important.

It has been a decade since I was introduced to the idea of a 1:1 classroom—a school in which every single student carried a computing device—and I never regretted it for a moment. Having those tools always at my students’ fingertips was extraordinarily useful for my classroom practice, and I would never have willingly given it up.


The constant presence of computers in classrooms has created education, security and privacy issues far faster than many schools or parents can cope, and trying to teach students about “digital citizenship” felt at times like trying to empty Lake Erie with a paper cup.

If data is the new oil, then schools are an untapped ocean-sized reservoir. And students, parents, and schools have been slow to guard that ocean—far slower than the companies want to tap it.
Do you think this would work better if we turned the screen on?
Google has perhaps led the pack in offering both hardware and software that was appealing inexpensive and functional. Now the state of New Mexico is suing Google for using those tools to hoover up student data without parental consent. Parents are increasingly concerned about the technology in school, while at the same time, ed tech is pushing its way into more and more of education world, from personalized learning which most often means a student in front of a screen, all the way down to computerized pre-school.

In response to this issue, the Children’s Screen Time Action Network has released a “Screens in Schools Action Kit.

The kit provides parents and teachers both with information and explanations that help lay out the issues, as well as providing the language with which to discuss these issues (for folks whose position is “This stuff bothers me, but I’m not even sure want exactly to say about it”). It’s not arguing for the eradication of tech, but a balanced, measured approach:

With little proven benefit and potentially great harm, it is prudent to limit the use of digital devices in schools until such time as these devices can be shown to be safe for children and good for their learning.

The kit comes in four sections.

The Problem lays out the issues, including the relevant research about screen time’s effects on learning, health and social-emotional well-being. It also looks at the problems of privacy and data misuse.

Tools For Parents includes guides to important questions that parents can ask and fact sheets about ed tech. It also offers an assortment of templates for everything from petitions to letters to the superintendent to sample policy recommendations.

Tools For Educators offers more research and data about screens, some policy recommendations, as well as some of the arguments about ed tech written by leaders and commenters on the field.

And finally, a Further Reading section provides an extensive list of resources for more study on the issues involved.

The issues surrounding computer technology in the classroom in the classroom are not simple; the solution is neither to remove them entirely or to give them unrestricted free rein. But so far, the bulk of the power in the discussion has rested with those who stand to most benefit from technology use in school. This kit helps provide parents and educators with the tools they can use to work for a better balance.

The materials in the kit are printable, though, ironically, you’ll need to give an email address to get access to the full free kit.
Originally posted at Forbes.com.

1 comment:

  1. The programmers at Google were either incredibly naïve or incredibly nefarious. They had no idea that Google docs in the classroom would soon become the student chatroom of choice. And why would they ever produce an OS that permitted students to stray at will?