Education speakers and parenting experts are aware: With technology and consumer electronics gear now topping children’s wish lists, it’s gratifying to see a growing range of examples of how technology can serve as a widely beneficial part of kids’ lives. But to realize its full potential, it’s vitally important that teachers and education industry professionals help prepare them to take best advantage of these tools and toys.
Note that doing so requires recognizing that the process of integrating tech into children’s lives will inevitably come with ups and downs – this requires to committing to cruising alongside them on the rollercoaster ride. Ready to help your students take the plunge? Here are five tips that high-tech educators should keep in mind, courtesy of leading education speakers and family authorities.
Connect on Neutral Territory – For teachers and educators, it’s important to meet children on common ground, and engage with kids by going beyond providing simple instruction and advice regarding appropriate behavior and usage habits. Use technology as a shared activity over which to bond and spark discussion on a variety of topics, and (from an overarching standpoint) tool to bring your classroom together – as a source of shared interest and neutral platform, it can serve as a powerful starting point from which to spark conversation. Being enamored with high-tech devices, programs and activities, otherwise reticent children may find themselves all too open to chatting about these topics – and unknowingly learning from the exchange.
Commit to Ongoing Education – Dozens of software programs, apps and child-friendly Web browsers are available to kids, and promise to help parents block questionable online content. But software’s no substitute for proactive teaching, whether inside the classroom or otherwise. As many new ways to connect constantly emerge or evolve, technology is a moving target. As an educator, the only way to help pupils meet the new opportunities and challenges presented is to constantly keep tabs on and personally try out new advancements. Ongoing research and hands-on trials are essential: You can’t teach the rules of the game if you don’t comprehend them yourself.
Create and Enforce Class Rules – You don’t have to be an education speaker or parenting expert to help kids understand the difference between right and wrong by setting class rules that everyone agrees to on appropriate content, when/how it’s suitable to use high-tech devices and when access is prohibited at school. Limiting screen time is important too: While the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no more than one to two hours daily, some educators and families offer more or less time as a reward or punishment for accomplishments (e.g. doing well on tests) and good or bad behavior. (Others treat use of high-tech devices as a privilege, reinforcing positive habits by letting kids earn time by performing well on assignments.) Note that kids should feel comfortable approaching you with questions as well concerning classroom rules and questionable content – open, honest discussion is paramount.
Stay Positive – While a decade ago, frenzied parents and teachers were beside themselves at the potential danger of online predators stalking chatrooms looking for victims, the reality is that most kids who interact online do so appropriately, and are more apt to encounter individuals engaging in appropriate behavior than not. Instead of focusing solely on bad apples and potential points of danger, it’s equally important to teach kids the positive applications of technology, and virtues of Digital Citizenship – i.e. the ability to apply real-life morals and judgments to online activities. While issues such as cyberbullying, identity theft and cybercrime are real threats, we’re not trying to scare children, but rather explain how they can appropriately act, and to know how to react, if they ever do happen to encounter negative situations or behaviors online.
Be a Guide and Mentor – On the flip side, as education speakers can remind you, don’t teach kids that the world is all sunshine and rainbows: Make them aware of what they need to know to spot something fishy, or potential pitfalls, whether situations concern a piece of questionable content or unscrupulous individual. Ensure that they’re equipped with a basic awareness of shady characters, online scams and potential sources of erroneous facts and misinformation. Cultivate a healthy sense of skepticism without instilling a sense of fear or powerlessness, and – most importantly – let kids know that they can come to you when questions or concerns arise. Kids need to learn to think for themselves – but they also need to know that they have your full support if and when issues emerge.
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