Help­ing stu­dents un­der­stand pit­falls of so­cial me­dia

The Drumheller Mail - - MAIL WORKS! - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail

The world of tech­nol­ogy can be hard for many to nav­i­gate. Add it to a class­room and it adds a world of pos­si­bil­i­ties and pit­falls.

To­day many stu­dents, from el­e­men­tary school, right up to high school have smart­phones and other de­vices. These can be a great tool for com­mu­ni­ca­tion with par­ents, re­search and safety. JoAnne Aker­boom says the re­spon­si­ble use of these de­vices has to be a joint ef­fort of stu­dents, ed­u­ca­tors and es­pe­cially par­ents.

The big­gest thing is for the par­ent to be aware of it,” she said. “It is the same thing as a par­ent putting a pack­age of cig­a­rettes in a kid’s hand, send­ing them off to school ex­pect­ing us to be re­spon­si­ble to make sure the kid doesn’t smoke. It’s the same thing, put a phone in their hand, send them off to school and we are sup­posed to look af­ter it? I think we have to have a part­ner­ship here.”

Aker­boom com­pleted her Masters with her pa­per en­ti­tled Parental aware­ness and in­ter­est in their child’s use of so­cial me­dia: A case study at St. An­thony’s School.

Her project ac­tu­ally sup­ports work that has been un­der­taken by the school divi­sion to deal with is­sues and pro­mote healthy stu­dent re­la­tion­ships in the age of so­cial me­dia.

“The goal of this case study was re­ally to pro­vide more in­for­ma­tion to Christ the Redeemer be­cause they had al­ready started on an ini­tia­tive to de­velop cur­ricu­lum for the class­room,” she ex­plains. “This isn’t Al­berta Ed­u­ca­tion man­dated, but we have seen a lot of is­sues and prin­ci­pals in our school com­mu­nity have said ‘we want to see some­thing done.’”

She says par­ents do see it is their re­spon­si­bil­ity to be the pri­mary per­son in a child’s life when look­ing at how to use so­cial me­dia and elec­tron­ics.

“Par­ents are the num­ber one ed­u­ca­tors of their chil­dren and the schools are there to sup­port that, so if there are chal­lenges that par­ents are fac­ing they don’t know how to deal with, that’s where the schools do have a role to sup­port that,” she said.

Her work showed par­ents are very aware of the pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive of so­cial me­dia. An in­ter­est­ing point is while they are aware, they are of­ten the ones who are learn­ing.

“We are the dig­i­tal im­mi­grants, the kids are dig­i­tal na­tives, they know more than we do, they know how to use bet­ter than we do so we have to learn with them,” said Aker­boom.

Like it or not, smart­phones are ev­ery­day tools for stu­dents and adults, be it for sched­ul­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and re­search. Aker­boom says for ex­am­ple class­rooms in France have com­pletely banned the phones and the ef­fects on aca­demics are pos­i­tive. Christ the Redeemer School does not have a blan­ket pol­icy for tech­nol­ogy in the class­room.

“We don’t have a set pol­icy on this, nor will we, be­cause our divi­sion feels that you know your school, you know your stu­dents, you know your com­mu­nity, you de­cide what is ap­pro­pri­ate,” she said.

In the class­room at St. An­thony’s Aker­boom says in the el­e­men­tary school, the phones don’t en­ter the class­room and no tech­nol­ogy is al­lowed dur­ing re­cess.

At the ju­nior high and high school lev­els, she ex­plains the school is tak­ing the ap­proach of want­ing to teach stu­dents how to use tech­nol­ogy re­spon­si­bly.

“At this end, (the ju­nior high and high school) they can bring their phone in and it is put on the corner of their desk in air­plane mode, so no there is no sound. It is a dark black box,” she said. “There are times in the class­room when they want to read a book they have on­line for ex­am­ple. The teach­ers want to teach them to use it re­spon­si­bly be­cause it is a tool.”

One of the big­gest con­cern she has when so­cial me­dia is not used re­spon­si­bly is stu­dents lose the abil­ity to in­teract. Since the dawn of the tech­nol­ogy age, fam­ily time has dropped by one- third.

“Chil­dren are more con­nected to their friends through elec­tronic de­vices. But what hap­pens? They lose their hu­man­ity. They lose their abil­ity to have body lan­guage, vo­cal tone, and they are los­ing their abil­ity to look some­one in the eye and have a con­ver­sa­tion. They are los­ing the abil­ity to talk to each other,” she said.

In re­sponse, Christ the Redeemer School Divi­sion has be­gun to fo­cus on #re­la­tion­shipsi­nadig­i­ta­lage.

“We are fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing healthy re­la­tion­ships as a way to com­bat what is com­ing out neg­a­tively from all of this screen time,” said Aker­boom.

“It’s not to say that all tech­nol­ogy is bad-not at all. Tech­nol­ogy can be an in­cred­i­bly won­der­ful tool, but it can also be an in­cred­i­bly de­struc­tive tool very quickly.”

JoAnne Aker­boom... St. An­thony’s Prin­ci­pal

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