How are your digital policies affecting student learning?

I have always been passionate about using technology for education, but let’s get this one thing straight: it isn’t the technology that excites me. Any good educator knows that putting a device in a student’s hands does not equate to automatic engagement. The beauty of using technology in school comes from the way it enables children to create, collaborate, communicate and delve into their own learning whenever they want from wherever they are.

Working in a high school, it has always bothered me when I walk down the hallway and see signs hanging outside of classroom doors that look like this:

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Understandably, these signs bother me because I know the power that technology can have in a classroom. Until recently, though, I had not found a great way to clearly articulate my feelings about these signs. In Kevin Honeycutt’s (@kevinhoneycutt) keynote address at the Midwest Educational Technology Conference 2014, he asked the crowd if we have ever lost a file, a flash drive, our phone. He then asked us to explore the feelings we had when that happened. If you are like me, you would feel panic, dread, and fear. Honeycutt argues that when we require our students to lock their technology away, not only are we disconnecting them from the world outside of our classroom walls, but we are essentially cutting off their digital limbs.

Our students are social learners. They rarely sit in silence. The are communicating, collaborating, creating all the time – that is, until they get to school and we tell them to lock their technology away. What do the signs up above say to kids? I don’t trust you. I know everything. All of your focus should be on me.

Today I am sad. I am sad to know that the things my children create at home when they are with me aren’t going to be the types of experiences they have when they go to school. My son enjoys writing email to his nana and posting app reviews on my blog, but it is like pulling teeth to get him to write a few sentences on a worksheet for his teacher. My daughter loves dance and watches instructional videos on YouTube to learn new moves which she mixes in to her own choreography. My children are learning at school, but they are also learning in a completely different way outside of school. How long will it be before my elementary school aged children find their in-school education irrelevant?

The question shouldn’t be “how is technology changing schools?” The question should be, “how has technology already changed learning and how are schools going to adapt to those changes?” In my opinion, a great starting point would be to take down those posters and reevaluate the digital policies that may actually be stifling our students’ potential.

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