There may be tears
Children are heading back to school. Our child is now old enough that I do not anticipate tears to come with an early morning drop off at school but they may come once he realizes that his endless summer of eSports has ended.
Gone are the late nights of online gaming, broken only by periods of reading about the game or watching others play it on YouTube, and the long talks about ‘ great’ headshots and snipes. Yes, our summer of Fortnite Battle Royale has ended.
(To the teachers, please do not ask him to write about what he did on his summer vacation – frankly I am too embarrassed – but if you want a story ask him about an ‘epic’ late night journey from Paradise Palms to the Lonely Lodge.)
Here again I am reminded that for so many of our children what happens online can become entwined with everyday life. Already our child has asked the question ‘why can’t I play Fortnite at school?’
It is an interesting question as it touches upon one of the most pressing issues in education: the role of technology in the classroom.
Although it is a wide-ranging issue interest has typically centred only on a few of its aspects. For example, discussions tend to focus on digital devices, such as laptops, tablets and cellphones, and largely ignore other classroom technologies such as whiteboards, 3D printers, and television. Digital literacy is deemed important but it is often undermined by the argument that technology is a distraction for students within the classroom. Social media dominates discussion and thus there is so much attention given to reasonable restrictions and appropriate use of policies at school.
What does not come through as strongly in our discussions about technology in the classroom are the rights of the child. So often we forget the basic principle that the rights people have offline must be protected online. Through legislation such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, young people have the right to identify as they wish, to express their opinions and to have those opinions heard and acted upon, to have their privacy protected and to access information and material from diverse sources. Those rights, and others, must be part of our discussions about technology. We also have to recognize there may be emerging rights that come with the digital environment, things such as the right to delete or remove content and the right to be forgotten, which are equally applicable to young people.
Children’s rights are the responsibility of parents and guardians. Unfortunately, we do not have a rights- based discussion about technology and the classroom, and neither students nor their parents have much of an opportunity to participate in any discussions. Here I think we could at least address the latter concern by following a recent practice from Ireland. There they have launched a plan for schools to consult with students, parents and teachers on the use of phones and tablet devices in schools, with the stated aim to develop or update school policy.
As we all enter another school year we need to be thinking about the kinds of discussions that need to happen at school and to think of ways to make sure everyone can participate.