Dr Kevin Stannard is quoted in the TES (20.02.15) as saying that schools must be ‘privileged places’ that give students time and space away from being bombarded with ‘data and technology’.
Indeed, schools do provide a special place for young people, not least because they offer a safe – and private - haven in which to make, and learn from, mistakes which can then be avoided later in life (when the consequences may be greater, and public). Our job as educators is to prepare young people with the skills they need to succeed in life. Therefore, I believe that to protect them from exposure to technology and social media is to deprive them of a core part of their education. Instead of shying away from digital tools, we must help our students to harness them in a positive way.
At my school, and amongst teaching circles, the main concerns we have over social media and data bombardment are: safeguarding; the permanency of the digital world (as Paris Brown learnt to her cost, what is posted on the web will always be there); cyber-bullying; and the fear that pupils know more than we do as teachers! However, social media, new technologies and cyber interaction are here to stay. So let us educate on its proper use in our relationships; teach it as a tool for learning; and show how it can aid modern living and communications … but only when used correctly.
I started teaching in the final years of the OHP. All you needed were non-permanent pens, (although they smudged), a little bottle of solvent and a spare bulb to harness the latest technology (for anyone under the age of 30, you will have no idea what I am talking about!). Yet the arrival of PowerPoint, the www and YouTube changed my teaching forever. From these first digital steps, I explored the use of online simulations, national databanks and social media in my lessons. And they worked! As an aside, if haven’t used Twitter as a classroom tool to develop arguments, and for students to voice opinions and distill facts, I urge you to try it. However, I agree that technology for IT’s sake is useless and pupils will see through it: it is there to enhance teaching, but it is not an alternative.
To deny IT and social media to the digital generation only stores up problems. It pushes them underground and then we never get the chance to educate our young people properly. The future of communication through technology is already here. As globalization continues to shrink the planet, technology is integral in terms of making tasks easier and as a major communication source. To ignore that is to fall short in our responsibilities to prepare those in our care for a world of change.
In conclusion, I don’t think it’s the amount of technology or social media in schools we should worry about; rather, it is how they are utilized that is the real issue.
Oh, and if we ban technology or social media because it might be a distraction in lessons, then shouldn’t we, as responsible grown-ups, look to ourselves? How many times do we get our phones out to check e-mails during a meeting?!
By Paul Sanderson, headmaster, Bloxham School