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A Delicate Balance

Thursday, September 17, 2015  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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By Christina Mimms, SAIS

As schools work to incorporate the latest technologies, they also seek a balance between the use of devices and traditional classroom instruction. Technology can keep students engaged in what they are learning, but does it disengage them from each other and from their communities?

Psychologist and school consultant Catherine Steiner-Adair, says that schools need to look closely at what percent of classroom time is on a screen and what percent of homework time is on a screen. “Are kids getting enough time off screen?” she asks. “Their brains, their posture and their vision need rest from screens. They need time for reflection and deep focus.”

She also recommends that school leaders think about what kind of culture they are creating through adult use of devices – what are school policies regarding teachers using phones in the hallways or parents using phones on campus? Are parents permitted to use school wifi to access their devices during on-campus meetings or events? “They are still role models,” Steiner-Adair says. “We need to understand how we as human beings interact with these devices and how we treat one another.”

At the upcoming SAIS Annual Conference on October 17-19 in Atlanta, Steiner-Adair will present two sessions related to technology for school leaders. In Mary Had a Little iPad: Rebooting K-8 Education in the Digital Age, she will help schools rethink their integration of technology. “There has been a lot of enthusiasm in going 1:1 without thinking about the implications of these devices,” she explains. “What happens when the magic of the iPad replaces the magic of the playground? Does it matter whether a child plays dress-up on an iPad or in real life?”

In what she hopes will be a very interactive discussion, Steiner-Adair will help schools examine the impact of technology on children’s development, digital citizenship, and cultural literacy tools that students need to thrive in the digital age.

Using knowledge gained from her many school visits and consults, Steiner-Adair also will present The Big Disconnect: Your Students in Class & Your Students Online, a session aimed at instructors of grades 9-12.

“The school day no longer stops at 3:00 or 5:00 PM,” Steiner-Adair says. “Students are doing group homework online without supervision. They are behaving in ways we would not condone in class and they are using language we prohibit in schools. There is a disconnect between who they are in school with each other and who they are online.” The 24/7 school day also includes email between teachers and students and all-school chat rooms, where students can sometimes get into trouble.

Steiner-Adair will offer a new way for schools to conduct their advisory to create a thoughtful, respectful and safe environment for students to be their best selves and to understand the impact of their online behavior. “Kids need a lot of practice role-playing and learning how to respond to situations,” she says.

Technology can become an ally for building character, community and creativity. Schools can press the pause button on their technology plans if needed and rethink their strategies to ensure that, as students learn to use devices and participate in online communities, they also learn to become good digital citizens and value their online relationships as much as their face-to-face interactions.


Attend one of Catherine Steiner-Adair's featured track sessions at the 2015 SAIS Annual Conference:

  • Monday, October 19, 7:45-8:45 AM: Lost in Connection: The Impact of Technology on Childhood, Family Life, & Education
  • Monday, October 19, 11:00 AM-12:00 PM: Mary Had a Little iPad: Rebooting K-8 Education in the Digital Age
  • Monday, October 19, 1:00-1:45 PM: The Big Disconnect: Your Students in Class & Your Students Online (Grades 9-12)
  • Monday, October 19, 2:00-2:45 PM: Got Grit: The Call to Educate Smart, Savvy, & Socially Intelligent Students in the Digital Age (All Ages)

>>Register for the 2015 SAIS Annual Conference.

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