By A Voice member (personal view)
A few weeks ago, we had to switch off the Internet at my school as we’d picked up a virus. I rejoiced. It was a couple of weeks of bliss for me. It was a couple of weeks of sheer hell for the younger teachers.
I felt like the master and felt the freedom to ‘look up things in books’, to spend time investigating facts rather than watching the class type for 30 seconds and then be rewarded with the answer to solve their problems. Instant answers are not the bee’s knees. Instant answers breed an expectation that everything will come to those who do not/cannot wait. Why are we content to tell children that the answer to all of their questions depends on whether they have wi-fi or not? Or if they have access to a tablet/ipad/phone etc?
I firmly believe that the Internet and Mr(s) Google can help a great deal, but they shouldn’t be relied upon as the Oracle for society. Children believe most things they read on the Internet, without question. We now have to teach the children that it’s important to question what they read online, that not everything should be considered an honest opinion etc.
Children, listen: celebrities saying what they think IS NOT GOSPEL. It’s OK to disagree and have a different opinion; that’s normal. I disagree with my husband a lot. Usually about technology, yes, but that’s ok…he’s not started giving me a thumbs up or thumbs down emoji (urghh…hate that word) so I don’t feel offended…yet.
And what’s all this nonsense about being ‘liked’ or not?! Oh My Gosh…people getting upset because they don’t have many ‘likes’?! People tell me that we can’t blame technology for this, but never in my past do I remember having a conversation with friends and then waiting to see how many raised their ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ card at me.
If I was an idiot for saying something stupid, they took me to one side and told me. It wasn’t done remotely and in a faceless way. It wasn’t done by some coward who loved to upset people because they’d never be seen doing it. It was done by someone who cared for me and didn’t want me to make myself look like an idiot again – by a friend. It’s much easier to offend when you don’t have to show your face. Cowardice is not new, but it is much easier now…because of technology.
But I digress, teaching and technology…Funny thing the other day – I asked the children who had high ambitions for their future. Most raised their hands (the ones who were listening) and then I asked who had a career in mind. Still some raised hands. Then I asked who wanted to be a YouTuber. 19 hands stayed up. 19! 19! Out of 26! Seriously? Is it me I wonder? Why do I not see being a YouTuber as a valid, accessible career? Most of us can name Joe Sugg, but how many others?
Maybe it’s because I’ve just spent the day off with my sick 9 year-old-daughter and I said that she could watch whatever she wanted. This turned out to be two loud American (no offence, but they were) brothers who were making pancake pictures whilst waiting for an owl to hoot which was a sign to spin a wheel and wherever the wheel stopped, they had to choose a card upon which had a forfeit type thing that would inhibit their ability to complete the task…
Well, for three hours I had to watch this utter drivel. I found myself desperate to clean the skirting boards/windows/hamster cage/tortoise out/vacuum the sofa…anything but have this noise enter my ears, eye balls, pores etc. She was hooked. What the heck are we doing to our children?
I know this is a long way from teaching technology in schools, but this is what the children are seeing – some of them as soon as they wake and as soon as they return from school – it is becoming an ambition of too many to perch themselves in front of a camera and ‘expand the minds’ of the rest of the world. No more ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing..’ more like ‘I’d like to teach the world to make pancake pictures whilst waiting for an owl to give me a forfeit…’
Back to the classroom…
Can my children use Word? Yep.
Can they use PowerPoint? Yep.
Can they access Mr(s) G for research purposes? Yep.
Do they know the dangers associated with the Internet? Yep.
Cyber bullying aware? Yep.
Do they believe everything they read on the ‘net? Hope not – I tell them enough not to!
Do they understand what the term ‘algorithm’ means? Maybe...if I’ve explained it accurately enough.
Do they need to know more than this at age 7 and 8? Seriously? They already all know more than me.
I am not saying that all technology is bad. I’m not even saying that most technology is bad –but it appears that we are making it harder and harder for the children to live without having an utter reliance on it.
I dip into technology as and when I need it. It’s at my beck and call. This, I believe, is contrary to what a lot of young people think, even primary aged children. It is a tool that we can make use of to enhance our lives, if we need it to.
It is not an equal who is allowed to make us feel inadequate (remember the bit about being ‘liked’ or not). It is not something that should keep us awake at night because someone sent a text that didn’t have a ‘xx’ at the end.
It is not a resource to be relied upon for the answer to everything. If this resource disappeared, then your life shouldn’t be affected, it should carry on just as well as before, it should run just as smoothly without technology.
We can live without teaching 7 year-olds about algorithms. I understand that we are worlds behind China (amongst other countries) but I just think that by bombarding children with technology, we are giving it too high a pedestal. Children marvel at screens – that will never change – but we need to think what they are being exposed to and at what cost.
I can’t remember the last time a child in one of my classes wanted to be an astronaut or fireman – why not? It does make you think, doesn’t it?