Today I read an article in Education Week summarizing some of the “mind-blowing” professional development tips given to elementary school principals at The National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference. These lessons in how to integrate and open up their classrooms to tech were dished out from a professional developer named Alan November of November Learning. One nugget of tech advice that made my head spin was this gem:
— Benjamin Herold (@BenjaminBHerold) July 10, 2013
There are so many things wrong with this that I had to read on to see if this was actually what he was suggesting to principals. And, yes, it was.
First and foremost what is upsetting about his advice – being given under the auspices of a tech “expert” – is that kids under 13 are not LEGALLY allowed to have Twitter accounts. Or Facebook accounts. Or Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat – the list goes on. Why can’t they? Because there is a privacy law, which I’ve talked about endlessly on this blog and elsewhere, called COPPA. That law is meant to protect kids, their personal information and their data. (I don’t even know if I could possibly write about it more than I already do!)
To not let that little fact be known to principals who are now going to go back to their teachers – their employees – and say,
“Hey, we should be using Twitter, it’s a great (free) tool! Now we’re using tech in the classroom, woohoo!”
I don’t know what the full agenda was at this conference, but ANY conversation with principals and teachers looking to integrate tech into their school has to begin with a discussion about privacy. Just as parents need to understand it, so do teachers. You cannot introduce apps and websites into a classroom without knowing what kind of data is being collected and why. You most certainly cannot introduce children – 1st graders! – to a website that specifically bans them as users! Maybe they should learn to mix cocktails as a science project – that would be some good real world job skill training!
He also told principals they should use Khan Academy to teach math. Just this past year I did just that with my daughters when we were preparing for a middle school exam based on math one grade level above their own. It was truly awful. AWFUL. And my daughters are crazy smart math girls. But watching Khan Academy math videos and then trying to fully grasp the concepts and then execute them on their own? That was a huge waste of time that made us all frustrated.
I’m sure some people have had success using the online math tutorials, but the majority of stories I’ve heard have been similar to my own. I can’t imagine if a bunch of kids had to watch on math on a screen every day.
Young kids need to be hands on – with math, with writing, with creating. They also need to learn how to be safe online since that is where a good part of their life will be lived.
There are so many wonderful tech tools, apps and sites that can engage and excite kids in interesting and new ways. We have many wonderful teachers using KidzVuz in the classroom as a tool for getting kids to write and produce video book reviews – but our site is built FOR KIDS! Just using tech because it’s novel is a waste of time and money – and that slapdash approach won’t help a teacher with their ultimate goal – producing true thinkers and innovators, and kids who want to learn.
I hope this article was just a snippet of what was presented to those principals. And I really hope that NONE of them go back to their schools and get their 1st graders on Twitter. Most of all, I hope the people in charge of teaching the teachers do a responsible job. There’s a lot of money being tossed around to so-called experts, but I’m not sure who is truly vetting them.