Tag Archives: Education

Calgary School Board gets it right: Our kids need internet access in school

According to the CBC, the Calgary Board of Education is beefing up their wireless networks in order to allow students access to the Internet in school. After reading the comments, it seems I am one of the few who believe that this is a good thing.

I’ll go beyond that statement, actually, to say it makes me feel profoundly sad to read the comments and see so many people think of the Internet as something that is unimportant and a waste of time. That the immediate thought of most is that students will do nothing but abuse the access they are given. Yes, some will. Yes, this move will not be easy and yes, it will require that some things within the school and teaching change. It will be disruptive, but in my opinion, we have no choice and the longer we delay giving students this kind of access in schools, the bigger we fail them.

In 1953, Child psychologist Jean Piaget wrote, “The principal goal of education in the schools should be creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done.”  We have moved far beyond a world where teaching “the basics” is enough. To not bring this type of access to students in our schools does a grave disservice to our children and their ability to work and live in THEIR world, not our world.

How do we teach students to become critical thinkers in an information age when we shield them from information?

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that web is the greatest educational tool ever created, and to not figure out how to appropriately use it within education is amazingly short sighted. We need to help students figure out how to appropriately use this tool or else we risk abdicating it to the likes of Perez Hilton and mass infotainment. If educators do not stake a claim on the web, it will become exactly the devoid educational environment that those posting negative comments at the CBC site fear.

I am not naive to believe that this will be easy.  Teachers will have to develop new skills. New problems will arise that we need to find solutions for. New methods of teaching developed that exploit the affordances of technology. But as a parent, I will firmly support and actively advocate for the appropriate use of technology in the classroom for my children. And I will also actively support any initiative that helps teachers learn the skills to teach my kids how to appropriately use the web.

To the teachers who are pushing for access to technology in the classroom and running into barriers (and I work on the periphery of the K-12 education system and know many of you do run into resistance), keep up the fight. I am with you. And if you are a teacher who cannot understand or see the potentials of the web – who believes that the Internet is a useless time waster full of nothing but LOL and OMG, please consider retiring and opening up a space for teachers who want to teach my kids to live in THEIR world, not yours.

Hi Tech Cheating – Do Your Kids Do It?

Is this cheating?

Does your teenager have a cell phone? If they do, there is a good chance they are using it to cheat at school according to a new report by Common Sense Media.

Key findings from the report say that more than 1/3 of teens with cell phones admit to having used them to cheat at school, while over 1/2 of all teens admitted to using some form of cheating involving the Internet.

According to the report, we parents are living in denial. Not that this practice exists in schools – 76% of us believe that cell phone cheating is happening in school – but only 3% of us believe our kids are doing it.

Hmmmm, 35% of kids admit to doing it, but only 3% of their parents believe they are doing it. That is a big digital denial divide.

But really the question we as parents need to be asking is not whether our kids are cheating or not (although that is a very important question), but rather what is cheating? Perhaps it is time to take a long hard look at what we think cheating is in the digital age. If we do, then we might come to the conclusion that how we define cheating may actually be hurting our kids.

For example, is it cheating for students to collaborate with their peers to find the answer to problems? 1 in 4 of the students in the survey don’t think so and I tend to agree with them. After all, is this not what we “grownups” do in real life? When we need to figure out a problem, what do we do? We tap into our personal networks and fire up the web. Isn’t collaborating to figure out a solution to a problem something we want to foster in our kids?

And is it so wrong for students to use the most game changing educational tool called the Internet to find answers? I mean, why do we ask kids to  pretend that this massively useful tool does not exist? Why do we insist that they need to be able to work inside a bubble to solve problems?

What I do have a problem with is a student taking someone else’s work and turning it in as their own. That, to me, is my moral threshold. But collaborating with their peers using technology to solve problems? That is something we should be rewarding, not punishing.

I realize this may seem like an extreme position to take, and it is fraught with a whole can of worms that educators have to deal with (not the least of which is how do teachers really assess learning), but I think we need to take a long hard look at how we define cheating in a digital age. If we do then we might just discover that what we think of as cheating is actually an essential skill our kids are going to need to thrive in a digital world.

Photo: Poor Marc Has No Idea She CHEATS! by Mr_Stein used under Creative Commons license.

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