There may be tears

The Amherst News - - OP-ED - Adam Davies is a former mem­ber of the Chignecto-Cen­tral Re­gional School Board.

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.

Adam Davies


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