Parents urged to embrace new tech
The head of the government agency which promotes technology in schools urges parents to see it positively.
It seems that every week a new report is published revealing the negative impact technology such as the internet, computer games and television is having on young people.
Schools have invested heavily in new technology
A Childwise report revealed that a generation of children were living their daily lives in front of a television or computer.
According to the report, British children spend an average of five hours and 20 minutes staring at a screen each day, while reading continues to decline as a regular pastime.
The conclusion many will draw from this is that our technology-driven world is producing a generation of lonely and unimaginative children, glued to their screens and unable to read, write or communicate properly.
But before parents throw their televisions and computers away in horror they should consider this: it is not technology that is at fault, it is the way technology is being used.
Young people today have grown up with technology. According to research by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, 41% of children aged 8-11 regularly use the internet.
Over 75% of 11-year-olds have their own TV, games console and mobile phone. 56% of children aged 8-11 play computer games, and 7% of 10-year-olds have their own web cam.
Whatever you feel about these statistics, they describe the real world for our children.
Technology will never be able to replace books, but neither should we see it as a social evil because our children spend so much time using it. On the contrary, we need to help them use all this technology in as positive a way as possible.
This week technology guru Johnny Ball helped Becta launch its Next Generation Learning campaign to improve the way schools and colleges use technology in their lessons.
Research shows that effective use of technology in schools helps improve achievement, behaviour and results, but currently only 20% of the country’s schools and colleges are using it effectively.
Johnny Ball believes having access to technology in schools is “like having a world library in every classroom” and that “IT makes all teachers better and good teachers absolutely brilliant”.
And he is absolutely right. What’s more, pupils respond to technology in their lessons because they have grown up with it, and it makes learning fun because it feels like an extension of what many of them already do in their free time.
Pupils in schools that are already using technology effectively often admit that they enjoy their lessons because they do not realise they are learning at all.
Many schools in the UK are already taking advantage of children’s enthusiasm for technology in their approach to learning.
It is astounding to see how interactive whiteboards, hand-held learning devices, school radio stations, blogging, podcasts, computers in homes schemes, digital photography and video conferencing are being used to by teachers to create stimulating and exciting environments for their students to learn.
But it is not just schools and colleges that need to improve the way technology is used in lessons.
Parents also have a vital role to play in ensuring that technology helps their children to develop and learn at home.
A recent Becta-commissioned Populus survey revealed that 95% of parents think the effective use of technology such as the internet, interactive whiteboards and laptops can help their children to learn.
However, parents also said they were more comfortable giving advice on drugs, bullying and alcohol abuse than advice on computers.
Rather than trying to exclude technology from their lives because we feel uncomfortable with it or have a vague idea that it is “not a good thing”, we need to do what parents and educators have always done – harness their children’s passions and interests and use technology to engage them in learning.
Author: Stephen Crowne, Chief executive of Becta, 18 January 2008