Principals and school leaders across the country have mixed feelings about technology, with concerns about devices distracting students at home and optimism about personalized learning and computer science enhancing education at school.
A recent Education Week Research Center survey showed 95 percent of principals think their students are getting too much screen time at home, while 64 percent believe student screen time at school is about right.
Over half of principals – 55 percent – are also extremely concerned about social media use outside of school. Most are also at least moderately concerned about other issues like cyberbullying, sexting, social media at school, and students’ ability to gauge reliable information online.
“Technology, used wisely and appropriately, can be an excellent resource for learning,” James Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that promotes responsible technology use, told Education Week. “But there is also an arms race for our kids’ attention going on. It’s being led by certain tech companies, and there are really significant downsides. Principals need to understand that.”
The education site points out that most principals view the “computer science for all” movement in schools in a positive light, with 15 percent who believe it’s a “transformational way to improve public education,” 23 percent viewing it as a “promising idea,” and 28 percent reporting it as “one of many school improvement strategies available to me.” The vast majority also support technology driven personalized learning programs.
In some cases, principals are pinched between tech companies pushing more screen time and parents and teachers pushing for less.
“Notably, principals responding to the Education Week survey said they feel the most pressure from technology companies and vendors to increase student screen time (58 percent), embrace personalized learning (55 percent), and spread computer science education (47 percent),” the site reports.
Meanwhile, more principals report teachers are pushing for less screen time than those who claim teachers want students to use more technology at school.
The uneasy balancing act is something parents know well.
Research from the Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia shows many parents are struggling to control technology use at home, and they’re worried about the negative influences it’s having on their kids.
“Many parents feel their attempts to control the home environment and to keep external influences at bay are nearly futile in the face of new communication and entertainment technologies,” according to the Institute’s “Culture of American Families” report.
“These technologies introduce a host of unknown and often unwelcomed influences into the private space of the home. The overriding concern is the negative influence that parents are unable to keep out,” the report continues. “Many feel helpless in the face of these technologies and uncertain about how, or if, to limit them.”
Fortunately, the UK’s The Jubilee Centre and other organizations offer lessons to help parents, teachers and principals guide students to develop appropriate and healthy relationships with technology.
The Jubilee Centre lesson, “Using Technology More Wisely,” for example, encourages students to reflect on whether social media and mobile technology are good or bad for them personally, for their relationships and society.