This will be a rehashing of this issue to those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, but I wanted to write about here on my blog.
So, technology is here to stay. Classrooms across the nation are instituting 1:1 laptop or iPad programs (where does the money come from? Am I correct to assume it’s all Race to the Top funds?).
My kids’ elementary school now has a 1:1 iPad program beginning in fourth grade. I have two fifth-graders (twins) this year. They came home with a sheaf of paperwork we were expected to fill out and sign in order for our children to receive their school-issued iPads. That was the first problem I had. We objected to some of the terms of the “contract” – so we redlined it and made a lot of handwritten notes in the margins. Frankly, I resent being required to sign a contract for anything in order for my child to access the curriculum. Something isn’t right about that. We’ve never had to sign contracts in order for our kids to use school-issued textbooks, have we? Ah, but iPads are different! They are expensive, somewhat fragile pieces of equipment. Exactly. So, here’s a great idea: let’s put them in the hands of young, immature children and foist the responsibility onto the parents! In any case, I truly do wonder what happens when a parent just plain objects and refuses to sign the paperwork? I mean, no child can legally be denied an education or access to the curriculum, right? So, what happens if a parent just refuses to sign the paperwork?
I’m a fairly strict parent. My husband and I have always tried to limit our kids’ access to technology. Our two oldest kids didn’t get cell phones until junior high, and then there were (are) a lot of restrictions placed on their freedom with those phones. Our kids are expected to ask us for permission before opening a home computer to use, for schoolwork or play. We try to limit the amount of time they spend on our home laptop or old iPhones we have lying around. When they break certain rules pertaining to their use of technology, we ground them from electronics.
But now technology is being forced into our house by the school district, and there doesn’t seem to be a damn thing we can do about it. The fifth graders are REQUIRED to bring their iPads home every night to do homework. Ah, but the difference between iPads and textbooks is that textbooks are solely for learning, while iPads are also a Candyland of entertainment. I am losing my authority as a parent. I am losing my ability to limit my children’s access to technology.
I told the twins when they brought their school-issued iPads home that they were to use them to do their homework, and that’s it. “Turn them off and put them away when you’re done with your homework,” I said. “That’s the rule.” So yesterday evening, I found one of the twins hiding up in her top bunk bed, playing on her iPad under the covers. “What are you doing?” I asked. Guiltily, she pulled the iPad out from under the covers.
“Are you doing homework?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
“So, already you’re breaking the rule about playing on the iPad?” I asked.
“My teacher said I could use it!” she said. I swear, she really said that!
“Well, I’m in charge at home, not your teacher!” I said. I was fuming now. When did this happen, that kids got this idea that teachers’ authority trumps parents’ authority? “Hand it over,” I told her.
“It’s not yours!” she shouted at me.
So this is what I now have to deal with. I absolutely realize that this is a parenting issue, but I can’t help but feel that school is encroaching on my ability to parent more and more, that whatever boundary there might be between home and school is growing ever more blurred. I don’t like it.
I think there are a lot of problems with having technology in the classroom – a reliance on systems that often fail, time wasted waiting and waiting for glitches to resolve, apps to load, etc., too much time for young eyes to be glued to glowing screens. But I understand that it’s here to stay. I don’t want it in my home, though. Keep the iPads at school. It’s infringing too much on families to make them responsible for the equipment, and it’s just set up a whole new battleground between kids and parents. And because devices like iPads and laptops are also used for entertainment, forcing them into the home is completely changing the dynamic of doing schoolwork at home.
What are your thoughts?