Teaching Students to be their own “Filters” in an Information-Saturated World

The rapid changes in technology have left many of us—parents and educators—gasping for air as we’re challenged to re-think what and how we want our children to learn. What’s clear to me is that the landscape has changed dramatically, and, that in order for our children and students to succeed academically and in life, they will need to know how to use technology effectively and ethically.

At the middle school level and below, this means setting and enforcing high expectations for students’ use of technology, while at the same time giving them enough freedom to make reasonable mistakes from which to learn. It also means being clear about what we expect students to know and be able to do with technology, and with information in general. This is why this year we are developing a school-wide information literacy curriculum. Among the list of skills we want our students to develop, it’s hard to argue that any are more important than their ability to gather, assess, and communicate information. Using technology is now an important component of any person’s ability to do this well.

When we began our middle school 1-to-1 iPad program two years ago, it was greeted enthusiastically by students, of course, and also welcomed positively by most parents. Some parents expressed reasonable questions about the wisdom of putting such powerful devices in the hands of our students, 24/7. Would, for example, they use these tools primarily for learning or for entertainment during and outside of class? Would they take proper care of these expensive pieces of technology? And would they make poor decisions in the face of having too much access, unshielded from the pitfalls of the Internet? While we have had a small amount of problems associated with each of these questions, our students have generally risen to our high level of expectation and to the responsibility and freedom we have afforded them.

Two recent articles are worth considering on the topic of student access to technology and to unfiltered Internet. Check out “Students Are ‘Hacking’ Their School-Issued iPads: Good for Them,” and “Teach Kids To Be Their Own Internet Filters.” In the end, we want and need our students to be their own “filters” as they navigate the future territory that technology will continually offer them.

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