Technology has given us many things. Photography is one of my passions and with children that insist they are born performers, making movies is something we very much enjoy as a family. Whatsapp has been an easy and affordable way for me to keep in touch with my family abroad. Social media has allowed me to fight the right to be concerned about the implementation of innovative learning environments (ILEs) in New Zealand.

After my son saved up to buy his own second-hand iPad at seven-years-old, we had to come up with family rules regarding technology. The bigger boys are allowed 25 minutes, three times a week and these privileges are always the first things to go if they are being punished. When you do take away one of those 25-minute sessions, you can tell how addictive these screens are, because it visibly hurts them! I will admit that I am not great with the TV. They get a half an hour each morning so I can post something like this and sometimes we watch a movie in the afternoon too.

Wellington’s Berhampore School Principal recently said in the paper that New Zealand has the highest uptake of screentime in the Western World for children. Children bullied online were twice as likely to commit suicide than their non-bullied peers. This saddened me greatly. I know how much money people from all over the world spend to visit our beautiful country. What they love most about New Zealand is the breathtakingly beautiful scenery and the vast amount of space to roam, explore.

Are we taking advantage of these jewels in our own backyard? I’m not so sure. The shallow technology that many schools have chosen to use in order to educate our children baffles my husband and me. My son used to write his spelling words on a piece of paper and take it home. This year, he is told to take a photo of said list, then upload it onto Seesaw. When he comes home, we log in to Seesaw, retrieve the list and practice them. No comment.

He is also asked to film himself in class reading a book, upload it to Seesaw so that his teacher can then comment: ‘Next time I would love to hear you read with more expression.’ Parents are also encouraged to comment on such ‘quality work’. This feels like a waste of my time and theirs, but I appreciate if others think it’s fantastic. The point is that parents are not really given the OPTION to NOT participate in Seesaw or the School app. My husband hasn’t read the newsletter since it went digital. He is just not that kind of guy.

Giving children Gmail at seven years old is also an unusual choice as I doubt teachers have time to read each e-mail that is going in and out. The Banqer app teaches children from a very young age to compare the bank balances of their classmates. This has nothing to do with the financial privacy that most adults enjoy. Banqer is made by teachers, for teachers. Maybe we need Banqer to be made by budget advisors, for teachers and children? A close friend who used to work together at our local Budget Service and I are coming up with a more hands-on approach to teaching children budgeting, with the lost skill of being able to save money being our focus.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all up for reading, watching, hearing about the quality work my children have done when they tell me all about it after school. I can also see a real advantage of parents being able to receive a weekly update from their teacher by e-mail regarding the QUALITY work of their children. But if the teacher is going to waste valuable teaching time on uploading and downloading, then no thank you, spend that precious time on looking my child in the eye.

With the push for technology to be involved in nearly all parts of our child’s learning (including dozens of photographs of every single outdoor activity), I worry again about the considered thought that has gone into being a ‘good digital citizen’. Our school has thousands of photos of our children on their facebook page. We all know how easy it is to copy an image and distribute it as we please.

I’m eternally grateful for not having the internet as a child or young adult. I believe there would have been a risk that the confidence my parents instilled in me so beautifully, could have been affected. Under the wrong circumstances possibly even crushed. Now my husband and I have to make sure that our children are protected from the potentially harmful effects of technology use. I wish we could fully trust the school to help us in that quest.

This post was originally published on My Child is Not a Guinea Pig.

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