I recently discovered what is, in my opinion, a very useful parent blog for parents in the digital age. It is the Code9 Parent Blog, an Australian blog linked to a website called Code9 Parent. Code9 apparently means “Parents Are Watching” in teen-speak. This website also has a Facebook Page, which shares interesting and relevant articles related to the digital activities of tweens and teens. It also shares information about apps and online sites/games etc. which parents should look out for and be aware of. I highly recommend this as a parenting resource.
I recently had the privilege of listening to Steve Sherman (@livingmaths) speak at our school at a workshop he hosted for our staff. One statement he made really resonated with me:
“If you dismiss a child you might be dismissing magnificence in your presence”.
I found this to be a profound statement. It made me stop and think. The students in our care are brimming with untapped talents, possibilities and potential brilliance. It is our duty as educators to spark their curiosity, to awaken their passions and to tap into their potential so that we may all experience that magnificence. Yesterday I witnessed a snippet of what I believe Steve was alluding to in his statement.
Our Grade 4s have been learning about the nine provinces of South Africa. One of our music teachers created a little song for them to sing in order to learn the names of the provinces. The teachers, however, were mulling over how to create a video using the song, to show the students where these provinces are situated within South Africa, and they had not yet come to a solution for the video. One of the teachers, Mrs Duminy, mentioned their dilemma to her students and she asked them for their ideas and suggestions and left it there. One of her students, Alon, took up the challenge. He went home and, with the help of his sister, he put together a simple but clever video.
Alon went away having listened very carefully to his teacher’s needs and while I think the video is great, for me the “magnificence” of this lies in the process behind it. Alon acted upon his own initiative, he made his own choices and decisions. This was not a teacher-driven activity. He problem-solved by brainstorming the possibilities and then carefully chose the tools he thought would work best and put together a video that works – simple but effective! Not only that, but once he had created the video, he created a QR code with a link to the video in his Google Drive, printed it out, stuck it on the wall in his classroom and shared the video with his peers in this manner. In other words, he considered the needs of his peers too as he carefully considered the best way to share the video with them. To top it all he roped in his equally talented sister, Daniella, to sing the song for the video backtrack with him and it sounds delightful. In doing all this, Alon created a video that his teacher can now use as a teaching aid in the classroom. I do know that Mrs Duminy was delighted with the result because she excitedly came to call me to her classroom to come and watch Alon’s video.
Teachers need to create more opportunities such as this to allow the magnificence of the children we work with to shine through. We must not underestimate them, they need the space and opportunities to bring out their “magnificence”. Our students will surprise us every day.
Alon used the following apps and tools for his video:
https://createqrcode.appspot.com/ (to create the QR code).
Below is the video created by Alon (click on the image below). Well done, Alon. I am very proud of you!
We all know that children love to play games, especially those on their iPads. Unfortunately the reality is that these games can (and do, in our experience) become a huge temptation and a sometimes a hindrance. In fact, they can also become a point of conflict in the home.
As a school we have asked our parents to provide an iPad for their children to use as a tool for learning. The parents manage the Apple ID’s and have full control of the iPads. We realise that, as a school, we have no say over what is downloaded onto the devices. While we did consider this, we cannot and do not want to dictate to our parents what they may or may not download. There are also some very educational games for the iPad and children can benefit from these too. We do not allow games to be played before or after school, and no iPads may be used at all during break times. We want our children to socialise and play with each other – these are important skills for a growing child. This is all part of our aim to encourage responsible use and management of the iPads by our students too.
So then, how does one overcome the games issue? At a Parent iPad workshop held at our school recently, we shared the following advice:
- Limit the number of games (our recommendation is 6 games only, if you allow them at all). Games can be rotated.
- It is also acceptable to disallow games until you feel your child is responsible enough to manage the iPad. You have been asked to purchase the device as a tool for school, not for entertainment.
- Set limits for screen time at home (distinguish between school work and fun time). There are apps to assist with this. (Screen Time on the iPad since iOS12 and Our Pact)
- Discuss this with your children and involve them in the decision-making process.
- Model acceptable behaviour. Is it acceptable to expect children to adhere to screen time rules when their parents are glued to their own smart phones?
- Stick to your decisions – this applies to the use of social media too. You are the parent, your rules apply. Be consistent.
If you are experiencing strife in your home about the amount of time your child spends playing on the iPad, consider the above points again and see where you can make changes. It is far easier to set firm boundaries and relax them a little at a later stage, than to allow a “free-for-all” and then try to pull in the reins when trouble rears its head. We have in the past heard complaints such as “This iPad is the bane of my life!” from one or two parents, and then when we make further inquiries, it is actually the parent management that is at fault, not the iPad. We have also seen student iPads where there are four or more screens of games – no wonder the temptation is too much to resist and the iPad is running out of storage space!
Parents, we urge you to make informed decisions. Make use of websites such as Common Sense Media to guide you in your decision-making. Read all school communication pertaining to the iPad and stay abreast of age restrictions. Take note of the amount of space games take up, especially on 16GB devices.
The iPad is a powerful device, an incredibly flexible tool for learning in the most creative of ways. Let’s work together to make this a happy experience for all.
UPDATE: As of 2020 we have requested that there are NO GAMES on the iPad during the school term. We have requested that games not be installed, or that they are blocked during school hours. We have done this to assist our students in combatting screen/game addiction and screen time exposure. Over the past few years, we have noticed that it has become increasingly difficult for children to resist the attraction of the games on their iPads.
Managing our children’s screen time and getting the balance right is an issue that many parents face. Today I came across a blog post about an app that might just be what parents are looking for to assist them in managing their children’s devices and to train their children to manage their screen time effectively.
Read OurPact Helps Parents Manage Their Child’s Device Use and take a look at the app in more detail here.
OurPact (Take note it is an iPhone app for iOS, but is also available on Android).