With the introduction of our FLEx 1:1 program (modified BYOD) we have held several parent information sessions. Following are some of the most common questions – and my answers.
1. Why does my child need a computer at school? It’s not that we believe technology makes everything better. Some things need to remain: use of a pottery wheel, a kite and a kickball to name a few. Technology does open doors. It allows students access to mentors, a globe-full of information, ways to work with each other even when they live in different parts of town, and unique ways to demonstrate mastery of concepts and share their creativity.
2. Can you teach me how to use Excel? Yes. Better yet, let us show your child, and let him or her show you. We will give students an opportunity to learn tools like spreadsheets for a meaningful project. Let them share their new-found expertise with you in making a spreadsheet for your family budget, family birthday lists, or anything else you need.
3. Why is the internet so slow? There are many reasons your home internet could be slow, from the amount of bandwidth you pay for to the type of media you’re downloading, to the wiring in your house or your individual device. Contact Comcast, Charter, Verizon, or whoever you rely on for this service.
4. How can I get my child to put a device down? The best idea I’ve heard came from a colleague (and fellow parent) from Cisco. Create a digital curfew for your family. It works even better if it includes the adults in the house, too. That means parents get to take a break from Pinterest and Facebook, too! Turn all devices in, make sure they’re charging and address any issues. It’s a great chance for parents to take a quick look at device content. If your kids express concerns about privacy issues, just remind them it’s not them you mistrust. Other students and strangers online can expose your children to content they’re just not ready for. It’s your job to protect them.
5. Which device should my student be bringing? Students at our school may bring an iPad, Mac, Windows or Linux laptop, or other tablet. The best answer to this question will come when you look at what you need the device to do. Does it need to be extra lightweight? If your child already has a 20 pound backpack, a laptop is a tough addition. Can your child keep up with a charger? If not, a long-battery-life Chromebook or laptop is a good choice. Need to do lots of image and video creating and editing? Opt for Apple’s iLife software. These are just a few of the considerations, but a good conversation with your child will help get you started down the road of choosing the best tool.
6. How can I know who my child is interacting with online? While it’s virtually impossible to stay a step ahead of kids on social media, it’s important to try. Know which apps they’re using. SnapChat, Vine, and more are cropping up as popular tools with easy gateways for inappropriate use. Talk with your kids. Insist that they allow you access to their social media accounts and check them from time to time. Just being friends with your child on Facebook or following them on Twitter does not mean that you’re seeing all of their online activity. Private messages and specific friends’ lists allow users to define who sees what. Stay in the loop!
7. Should I let my kid set up an Instagram account? If they are not 13, the answer is no. Suggest they try going for a run, reading a book, tossing a frisbee or sketching – even better, join them. They simply don’t need to be on social media. We don’t recommend setting up parent accounts and friend-ing or following your kids’ classmates. So many parents complain about their children’s use of social media as tweens, but were complicit in setting up the access. After 13, have a very frank discussion with your kids about responsible use, and the serious consequences of irresponsible use before you support their foray into life online.
8. Should I filter internet access at my house? If so, how? The answer depends on the age of the children in your house. As they grow up, the need for filtering should diminish as they mature and learn to navigate away from the inappropriate content they will inevitably encounter. If they’re younger, yes. Netnanny and OpenDNS are just a couple of the filters that work well for home. On iPads, you can also use safe browsers like Mobicip. On iPads and Macbooks you can enable restrictions on student activity including apps and browsing.
9. What are Google Docs? Just last week an adult came to me distressed because her USB drive had failed. When I explained to her that uploading her material to Google Docs (Drive) would make it available from any computer, she realized it’s a powerful solution. Our students, from third grade and up, have access to uploading, creating and sharing documents and spreadsheet using our Google domain. Rather than documents being stored on the hard drive of a computer or on a USB drive, Google Drive stores all of a user’s content in the “cloud,” or on their servers. Microsoft has a similar tool called SkyDrive, but we have seen great ease of use and reliability with Google’s education domain.
10. When are you holding another parent coffee? Yes, it seems like there is constant interest in technology information by parents…and that’s a very good thing. Work hard to keep the lines of communication open!