When I was a kid, it sure seemed like summer just flew by. Giving up the freedom to be out and about, playing and enjoying the great outdoors wasn’t something any kid looked forward to. Memorial Day to Labor Day was pretty much the benchmark. Yet here we are in mid-August and my kids have already been in school for over a week. Summers are much shorter for them than they were when I was their age. My kids aren’t too happy but as a parent, I’m ready for the continuity to the schedule that the school year brings. Being prepared for school means far more than just stocking up on school supplies; it means adjusting sleep schedules, planning for dinners and accommodating extra-curricular activities.
Last month, I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel with a few other bloggers at a luncheon hosted by U.S. Cellular during the BlogHer conference. We discussed a variety of topics including when to get a child their first phone, responsibility and mobile etiquette. One of the things I feel pretty strongly about is that kids aren’t living in the same world that I did as a kid. It’s difficult to find a pay phone and kids have more opportunities to be involved than was available when I was a kid. That schedule continuity that the school year brings is easier because we’ve provided them with the tools they need – and that we need.
As the kids get older, we’re starting to realize the importance of having them connected. They’re involved in extra-curricular activities where I’m not a volunteer, coach or parent chaperone. Like many other parents, I drop the girls off and come pick them up later. There have been situations where traffic has prevented me from arriving on time and I’m able to connect with them and let them know. Just yesterday, the kids’ bus broke down on the way home and they were able to notify me. I wasn’t worrying about where they were or why they were late.
Aside from the benefit of connecting with the kids on the go, we see technology integrated into their schools more each year. The kids utilize Google Docs on a daily basis for their homework. While the classrooms offer PCs for use, most students opt to utilize the classroom iPads. Students are even allowed to bring an iPad or iPhone from home to use during class. This year, even our lunch menu is provided via an app! Teachers are opting for services like Skype and DropBox as tools in their teaching arsenal. Skype is being used to digitally bring guest speakers into the classroom or take students on virtual field trips. DropBox gives them the ability to share content from anywhere via the cloud service. Some schools have moved completely to tablet textbooks while others are using apps like Notability for taking notes, sketching ideas and collaborating on projects.
While some schools have budgeted for these kinds of expenses, others are relying on donors to help bridge the gap. I’ve personally contributed to DonorsChoose in the past and find it an excellent way to support programs or projects I believe it. I recently learned that U.S. Cellular, a company I’m an ambassador for, is donating $1 million to fund teacher classrooms through Calling All Teachers. They encourage teachers to post their projects on DonorsChoose.org for potential funding. U.S Cellular has funded more than 4,500 classroom projects to date and doesn’t limit their selection to projects involving technology. They’ve supported art equipment and science experiments as well! If you know a teacher who could use assistance funding a project (or should I say “If you know a teacher” since every teacher needs help funding projects) have them check out this worthwhile promotion.
As difficult as it is for many parents to recognize, having technology (whether an iPhone5S, Galaxy S5, or even a tablet) is as important to their child’s education as using a calculator or computer was to my generation. With guidance provided by parents through a Parent Child Agreement, students as young as 10 or 11 can certainly learn the responsibility of a mobile device. And parents can reap the benefits of connected kids.
When preparing for back to school, be sure to keep in mind the big picture and the importance that technology plays in it.
How have your school districts integrated technology into the classrooms?