Categories » ‘Media’

The Future’s So Bright…

October 30th, 2012 by

The world of education has begun to shift.  Noted educator Will Richardson recently wrote in the New York Times that, because of the pervasiveness of the internet and the World Wide Web, “schools, like media, music, business, politics, and other industries… will have to change.”

Even though he says that no one now knows what will become of schools and the classroom by the end of this transformation, Mr. Richardson notes three touchstones as a starting point for parents and educators to involve themselves in the change – and to prepare students for it.

One of the ideas he finds central to “tomorrow’s” education is that the classroom will expand, or have, as he puts it, “thin walls”.  As our society becomes more and more connected – as our teens and tweens become more “plugged in”, we have to realize that the amount of learning taking place outside the traditional classroom setting is increasing exponentially.

So, what, as parents and educators, can we do to prepare our children and ourselves for this unprecedented change?

The first thing, and quite possibly the most important thing, we can do is to teach our children discernment.  Kids are very adept at scouring the web at younger and younger ages, and we need to give them the skills to navigate this world.  Up until now, the conversation has rested mostly on keeping kids safe online, and, while that is important, it isn’t enough anymore.  Kids need to understand how to find reliable information online; they need to understand that not everything they see is the truth.  This task of teaching discernment isn’t a new one for parents – they’ve been doing it for generations (eat this mushroom, aKids Get A Lot of Screen Timend not that) – the trick is that with the internet and World Wide Web, we are in heretofore uncharted territory.  We are in territory that is changing and evolving more and more rapidly with each passing year.  If we’re to teach Web skills to our kids, we had better have at least a basic handle on it ourselves.

The second thing we need to remember is that, even with society changing at an exponential pace, we still need to take time away from all the information.  Kids (and adults!) need to make sure that they have time to play, rest, relax, and engage with each other in a non-cyber fashion.  Screen time is becoming an addiction (think of TV addiction on steroids!) for many tweens and teens today.  It’s important as parents and educators to stop and model play and recreation behaviors for their kids and to schedule it into their lives.

We’re living in exciting times – Will Richardson says that there has never been a better time in the history of mankind to be a learner – the bounties that technology has to offer us and will continue to offer us in the future is breathtaking.  But, as parents and educators, we must meet the challenge with open eyes and open minds.

We Have Been Dangerized

July 22nd, 2011 by

Thanks to Lenore Skenazy for her poignant blog post/article in response to the near-incomprehensible Lieby Kletzky tragedy.

READ LENORE’S POST HERE

The fact is that we DO decide in a most irrational fashion what fears to pay attention to.  Sure, the media helps a lot!  And then we obsess, often to the point of unintended and unwanted consequences.

The day after they found Lieby’s body in New York City, our site had a field trip planned; we were taking a small group of 24 five-and-six-year-olds to the Zoo.

24 children with 7 adults.

Two families pulled out of the trip- too dangerous, they said (“…you heard about that kid in New York, didn’t you?”).

At least four other families expressed concern about the trip (“you’re sure you’ll be watching them?”- as if we hadn’t been all this time, but now we were kicking around the idea we should start).

I understand the parental pull to protect your kids.  I’m a parent, too.    I get it.

As a care provider, I’m also always humbled by the trust the parents place in us every day we take care of their kids.  I always strive to keep that trusting bond at the fore of my thoughts (and remind the other staff to be aware as well) as we move through our daily activities.

And, at the same time, I really get it.  I get how freaking irrational our fears can be when driven by sensationalism.  In many ways, we are still the 5-year-old kid worried about the monster from the movie that we’re sure is lurking there under our bed.

Men In Black: Violence is Just Alright With Me!

July 17th, 2011 by

The Supreme Court has recently ruled that a California law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors is  unconstitutional (Story and commentary here).

I have to admit that the libertarian in me agrees with this decision.  Which makes the internal struggle all the more poignant.

Mainly because the libertarian in me is a purely logical, black-and-white, take-no-prisoners idealogue.

The other part of me- the parent, the educator, the one who works with kids forty hours per week- is horrified.  I would rather have my kid be able to walk into a store and buy a Playboy rather than a game that included the above scene of gristle (of course, logically, a false dichotomy, but emotionally powerful enough to make the point).

I posted my thoughts on this on my facebook page and got replies from all my smug libertarian friends about how it is the parents’ right and responsibility to choose, so, the Supreme Court, was, of course, correct in their decision.

The problem is, in twenty years of working with kids and families, I know that there is a percentage of parents who abdicate that right and responsibility.   Over the past year, I have overheard conversations of 2nd and 3rd graders talking about the carnage they create playing such games as “Call of Duty”, “Assassin’s Creed”, “Halo”, and other such games.  And while the studies around violent TV and video games’ effect on the psyches of impressionable youth come down solidly on the side of “not a good idea to let them play these”… like global warming, there’s just enough wiggle room for the other side to cry that their rights are being infringed.

While the solid empirical evidence is unclear, I suppose that what it comes down to for me is – do we want a world where kids are given scenes like the above as a “plaything”?  Are we ready to deal with the potential consequences ten years down the road?

Yes, I do understand that this is not Armageddon.

It is not the end of humanity as we know it.

But it is one small, tiny, almost subconscious step away from a world of peaceability, community, and non-violence.  We have enough violence and carnage and insensitivity in the world already.  My question is, are we ready to tolerate more for the sake of entertainment?