At a recent staff planning day (where we are tasked, as a group of educators, to select a measurable school goal that we hope will increase student learning), but I was surprised at how much time and energy was focused on students’ technology, more specifically, its use (inappropriate and ineffectual), and the obvious impact that it has on learning, focus, creativity, and critical thinking.
Actually, I wasn’t really surprised so much by our discussion of technology and students, but rather that we, as educators, are having this conversation so far along the path of what has become problematic, endemic, and without an apparent end.
And while we can (and do) outlaw these devices in many of our schools and classrooms, we also have an obligation to educate our students on the healthy and sound use of technology for both learning and personal rationale. What gets lost in many of these discussions (and I’ve been in many–student, parent, educator, public) is that technology, by its very nature, is neutral. It is only when humans decide to use (or misuse) technology that we then encounter a myriad of consequences. So, yes, banning their use and even presence in our classrooms and schools may be an admirable (and temporary) fix, it really only adds another finger in the dike.
One of the problems that I have witnessed over the past seven years as a teacher-librarian (or technolibrarian) has been a lack of the ‘responsible empowerment’ of our young people, and their devices, by both educators and parents, alike. Arguable, society has come to expect our children to possess handheld technology (“What if I need to contact them?”). Even more naive is the fact we also expect that they actually know how to use them (and of course I don’t mean the physical manipulation such as finger dexterity).
Digital etiquette. Responsible and healthy use. A balanced technology mindset.
Why do we continually ignore the need to help our students develop digital manners? To develop sense of digital citizenship? To model and expect balance?
We need a starting point. We need a flashpoint around which parents and educators can rally. To find common ground. To find common language. A common approach. We need to build our capacity. To circle the wagons. We need to set the stage for conversation. For lots of conversations. Conversations with our youth at home. Conversations and that ‘teachable moment’ that happens within our classrooms. Conversations between parents and educators. Conversations between and among our students. The conversation about appropriate technology utilization and that “Yes, even with technology manners do matter.”
Long after our students have forgotten all the curricular content (and it will), what are those skills that we really want our students to possess? Skills that will add value to themselves and society as a whole. Skills that are transferable and applicable in a myriad of environments. Skills that help them to be productive contributors to society, lifelong learners, and future leaders.
Because, yes Johnny, manners do matter.