Last week we had a laptop orientation night for parents, who came in to learn about the one-to-one laptop program in our middle school and take the machines home to their eager children. This is the 7th year of our laptop program, and the teachers continue to find meaningful ways to integrate the laptops into the day-to-day rhythm of their classes. All core teachers in Grade 7 and 8 also have a “virtual classroom” that they use to place materials and extend classroom activities and discussions. While there are tradeoffs for 24/7 access, grades are also available online.
Despite the success of the program, concerns still exist about the amount of time students are spending with technology. (As an aside: At our opening student assembly this year, it gave me pleasure to see roughly 30 students (out of 450) stand up when I asked: “How many of you did not touch a computer for the entire month of July?”)
In an attempt to address the concerns over technology’s impact, author and researcher Don Tapscott argues that something positive is happening to the expectations and world views of our younger generations (as a result of their use of new technologies). The author of the book Grown Up Digital (2009), argues that there are now 8 norms for the Net Generation, which are due greatly to the impact of technology and social networking on their lives: They are:
Tapscott argues that it is fruitless to fight these norms, and that we would be better finding way to take advantage of these new (mostly positive) changes.
Of course, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of “technology is good” v. “technology is evil,” the introduction of a laptop computer into the life of an adolescent has the potential to be hugely disruptive for a family. This is exactly why we asked the parents, not the kids, to come to laptop night. Hopefully, if they introduce the computer into the family they can begin an important conversations about usage expectations at home. It does all start, and end, with communication.