This post is in response to and based on an article published here by TechThought titled “The Bare Minimum of Technology Integration”.

Parents, the shiny new laptops, the new computer lab smell, or the latest iPads in your child’s classroom might feel special, and make you proud that your child gets to enjoy something many other schools do not.

This makes sense.  As a parent, you want the best for your child, and you want them to have it better than you did at their age.  And to be honest, if you can’t afford to buy these things yourself, it might make you happy that your child can at least “play” with an iPad at school.

Hopefully your child is also learning important skills they will need for college and a job with this new technology.  As a parent, you may want to know how and why using computers at school helps your child learn and grow.  So here’s a list of some ways teachers use computers, and some questions/ideas you may want to think about before getting excited over new gadgets.

  1. Your child’s teacher might make a class website, and ask him or her to use it for classwork, homework, projects and/or important announcements.  This is helpful because very soon most of our jobs will involve using a computer, and your child will (a) apply to colleges, (b) apply to jobs using a computer.  But there are still three things you should think about and then discuss with your child’s teacher:
  • Does my child know why we have websites?  Do they understand why a website might be better than a textbook, for example?
  • Does my child know why a website looks the way it does, and how a website “works”?  For example, does my child know how to use hyperlinks or archives?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how easy would it be for my child to go on and through a website by his/herself?

If any of these three questions have an unclear answer, then it’s unclear whether using  computers and a class website will make sense to your child and help them grow.  You need to make a strategic plan with your child’s teacher(s) so that they actually learn something valuable.

2. Your child’s teacher might make a Twitter account for the class, and ask students to use it to speak with and learn from different people, cultures, and experts.  Twitter might be a good start in helping your child write grammatically correct sentences and complete thoughts about a subject.  Many students struggle with writing paragraphs or essays, so Twitter can be used as practice until their writing skills improve.  Also, if your teacher follows the right people on Twitter, students can get quick and interesting facts about different countries and people they have never met or knew about.

BUT, you might want to ask the teacher:

  • What specific grammar skills are you going to teach using Twitter, and why do you think using Twitter is better than using a regular grammar book?
  • What kind of topics/people will the class follow on Twitter, and will you protect my child from finding/following things that I find inappropriate?
  • How are you going to make sure that, after using Twitter, my child will know how to write paragraphs and will understand the structure for writing an essay?
  • Will my child be safe on Twitter at your school?  (This could mean safe from child predators, or safe from cyberbullying.)

The excitement of using technology will quickly lose its shine unless there is a purpose behind everything that’s done.

Next week in Part II of this post more ideas and questions on edtech will be explored…