As the new year commences and many new families join the SCAS community, this is a timely opportunity to inform parents of the expectations regarding the use of technology by students whilst on campus — as well as some of the challenges that families and the School face with regard to technology.
Our Wellbeing programs are the springboard to help our students navigate their digital life and all SCAS students have opportunities to explore these guidelines throughout their year. A challenge for staff is that there seems to be nothing more demotivating than to open a talk with teenagers with, “We need to make you aware of your safety online.” And yet, every week the news features something where unwise choices have led to serious crimes in the cyber world or outlining teen addiction to their mobile devices. To stop and think before we post a comment online is more important now than ever before. Teachers are aiming to impart necessary information to our students to ensure that they act in full knowledge of the law and their responsibilities within it. We try to ensure that they are aware that all electronic communication leaves a digital footprint which cannot be deleted.
If you’re inclined to read a research paper, then Jean M. Twenge’s article ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?’ will confirm what we all know anecdotally. As a parent myself, I wonder about the impact of technology and what I can do to best prepare my children for a future in which, no doubt, the technology they use will have an impact on their lives, careers, personal wellbeing and relationships.
For parents, the rules and responsibilities for students are outlined on the Explain SCAS website and specifically the BYOT, ICT and Social Media Policies outline the consequences of a breach of these. I would encourage all parents to have conversations around technology use at school. In this way, school and parents can work in partnership to achieve positive outcomes.
The challenge, then, for schools is how we balance technology and wellbeing. As detailed in my last communication with parents, we must prepare students for the life they are stepping into and there is little point in avoiding technology and the positive role it plays in education and more broadly in societal improvements. For this reason, several years ago, we introduced a BYOT program from Years 5-12 and students use the Google Suite of Education for the many benefits it brings around classroom engagement and collaboration. Years 3 and 7 have a subscription to the TypingClub platform to develop their touch-typing skills, which is a prerequisite for much of what they do. Interestingly, a decade ago there was talk around the skill of touch-typing becoming redundant with the advent of voice recognition software. However, this has had little impact. Perhaps this is further evidence of just how uncertain the future can be in rapidly moving times.
More recently, there has been a push to remove smartphones from Australian primary schools. I encourage parents to stay critically informed that the benefits of technology outweigh the issues as has been presented in two recent articles that are worth reviewing. ‘Don’t ban smartphones in Australian high schools’ and ‘Smartphone ban in schools: good or bad idea?’ present some balanced ideas for both sides. I take the opportunity here to remind parents and their students that mobile phones (including Apple and Samsung Galaxy Watches) are not to be used at school during the day for any communication and there are consequences for their use. Parents can support these rules by not texting and phoning their children during the day and not accepting calls from their children’s devices during the day. If there’s an emergency, the school will call!
Our students’ real world is the online world. As educators, we are encouraged to facilitate this, to be involved in the development and implementation of various strategies, programs, events and activities to support students and their technology use across the curriculum, and to develop in students and staff a love of learning and habits of lifelong learning. At SCAS, staff demonstrate teaching practices that reflect current innovative pedagogy in teaching and learning, advocating higher order questioning, critical and creative thinking, and problem solving that assist in the development of our students to become self-directed, inquisitive and reflective learners who are safe in the world as they move forward.
Can I encourage parents that, if all else fails when trying to moderate your child’s time online, the power button on a device or a router in the family home has very immediate results in changing the behaviour of children being glued to devices or feeling they need a permanent online connection. Simply being mindful of technology use in the home ourselves and noticing when the balance needs to be shifted goes a long way to ensuring that technology is being used purposefully and productively, rather than simply becoming a habit. As we are all aware, habits can be very difficult to break… so it’s a good idea to develop self-regulation early whilst we still have influence.
Director of STEAM (K-12) SCIENCE | TECHNOLOGY | ENGINEERING | ARTS | MATHEMATICS