Thursday, January 22, 2015

Smart(?) Phones ~ What Can Parents Do?

When I was a child, the only phones we had were the ones attached to the wall, one upstairs, and one downstairs.  They had no screens (only the Jetsons could see the people they were talking to) and pretty much anyone could hear what you were talking about.

Yes, things have changed.

Younger and younger children now have access to a whole world by looking at a device that fits in their pocket.  The technology has raced forward, and sometimes parents are spending all of their time playing catch-up.  This morning I heard an article on BBC World Update about an organization (The Raising Awareness Project) in the UK that interacts with young people and their parents to "raise awareness about personal safety and prevention in areas of rape and sexual assault." Pretty heavy stuff.  What caught my attention was the fact that most of the inappropriate and explicit material that young people are accessing is being viewed on smart phones. This got me thinking. We set up filtering on our computers at home, and the school network has filtering and monitoring in place; but when young people access the internet from their phones through AT&T or Verizon, then what?

Of course, simply setting up filtering is not enough. Age-appropriate open communication with young people must happen. Common Sense Media has a number of resources for parents as does Focus on the Family. Technology, like anything else in our world, must come under the authority of Christ in our families and our lives. He is not surprised by anything. He is not old-fashioned. He knows more than we do about what is out there on the internet and what our children are exposed to. He is the ultimate Wisdom in an increasingly complex world. I am grateful to belong to such a big God!

I have collected some resources for you to access on this topic:

Focus on the Family - Parenting Resources (When Children View Pornography)

Common Sense Media - How Do I Talk to My Teen About Sexting?

CNET Article - How to Keep Smartphone-Using Kids Safe (a 2012 article, but still relevant)

How to Set Up Parental Controls and Content Filtering on Android Phones

How to Set Up Parental Controls and Content Filtering on iPhones

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Inline image 1Two of our elementary teachers, Mrs. Brenner and Mrs. Caley, attended a technology conference in early December. One of the ideas that they brought back to CCS was a formative assessment tool called "Plickers."   According to the app's website, "Plickers is a powerfully simple tool that lets teachers collect real-time formative assessment data without the need for student devices."

Mrs. Caley explains, "Students each have a numbered code card they can position to answer a question. The teacher scans these codes via an app on either the iPad or iPhone to gain instant data revealing student understanding of material or to survey the class on predetermined topics. Students love it!"

The Plickers website encourages teachers to use the product to "tailor instruction with instant feedback" and to "use Plickers for quick checks for understanding to know whether your students are understanding big concepts and mastering key skills." Wow, instant feedback to give insights to teachers so that they know how to proceed with further instruction!
This is just one more way that technology can enhance both teaching and learning!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Wonders and Wires

Years ago, schools relied on books and chalkboards and pencils. Teachers taught, students listened. Today, the wonders of the digital world are available to the youngest of our students. If my grandmother were to enter one of our elementary classrooms today, she would be astonished at what the children were doing. No longer are students just sitting ramrod straight in chairs and simply repeating what their teacher tells them.  Pupils easily navigate on ipads, computers and interactive white boards. Teachers integrate digital tools with traditional ones, working with small groups and one-to-one while other children investigate, experiment, and read individually or cooperatively with all manner of media. This all runs smoothly! 

Most of the time...  

Every now and then the bits, bytes, and electrons that are vital to the digital flow of information stop moving the way that they should. Somewhere there is a breakdown and it is time to investigate, diagnose, and repair. The problem can be mysterious and utterly frustrating.  But it is never impossible!  Last week a stubborn and baffling internet issue interrupted connection for only a few specific computers. On Friday morning, as a few of us gathered to pray together, I asked for prayer for this very situation, knowing that God cares about everything we face. By the end of that day, with some help from our technology consultant, Steve, I had some ideas about what could be done to solve the problem and had restored connections for everyone, at least temporarily.  On Monday, Steve came in to the school and we re-arranged some switch connections, identified which wires went where, and ended up with an even more robust infrastructure than we had before the mini-crisis. This did involve some "head-in-the-ceiling" detective work!  (Thank you, Steve) I am grateful.

So let the wonders continue, and as even more new technology enters our world and our classrooms, God will continue to be at the center of it all, and He knows where all of the wires go!