Learning Responsible Behavior Now

We are in the first year of a learning initiative (TL2014) that has as it’s goal the transformation of teaching and learning. As a part of this initiative, each student in grade 6-12 has been provided a laptop computer to use during the school day and after hours at home. Our filtering system during the day is moderate – we are working on relaxing it more, but we’re not there yet. In the evening, when the students go home, however, the filtering is even more relaxed, blocking only the required pornography. Students have access to social networking such as Facebook and Skype once they leave the school network.

Most parents are fine with this, although it has been a “disruption” to the home to have to set new parameters. Laptops require the same changes in parenting as students driving automobiles. You have to set parameters for use. A significant number of parents have complained about how disruptive the laptops have become to home life, so much so that they are requesting more blocks on things like Facebook and Skype so that students have a way to manage their time with distractions.

While I can empathize with parent concerns, I see this disruption as a positive learning event in the growth and development of their children. Life today is filled with technology and the distractions that come with them. We have all – adults included – had to learn to regulate these distractions. It is a part of life in the 21st century! We do not serve students well when we take them off the hook for learning how to manage these distractions now. Basically, learn how to manage distractions now when you are in a low-risk environment that is tolerant of failure. Or learn them when you go off to college and/or work, spend thousands – or even tens of thousands – of dollars to learn, for the first time, how to handle all the distractions of the real world. It seems to me you’d want children to learn these new skills now, rather than putting them off until the stakes are much higher.

I realize we are being somewhat hypocritical. Some might ask us: Why don’t you have the same relaxed filtering during the day as the students have at home? Is it because we can’t manage it yet? Maybe. But we are slowly working toward opening more things up. In the mean time, we will offer parents the option of a stricter filter after-hours, but I’m not sure it’s a service to our students. What do you think?

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