Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Schooling Our Kids in "Internet?"

Question: Why does my 12-year-old (7th grader) think he needs to go online every night to do his homework?

Answer: His teacher told him to.

I don't know about this. From talking to him, I learned that in his science class, the teacher literally uses an "in-focus" type projector to beam websites onto the screen to teach about everything they're learning. So far, I know about the cell website, and the skeletal system website, however, I know there are others!

When I asked him if they have textbooks, his answer was "yes, but we don't use them."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because the website is better."

WHY ARE WE TAXPAYERS BUYING BOOKS IF THEY ARE NOT RELEVANT? I don't know about you, but for all the talk about the school-budget being too tight, and needing to cut waste out so we don't have to lay off teachers, etc., there is something here.

#1 - WHY do teachers have infocus machines? What happened to the good, old overhead projector?

#2 - WHY do we have textbooks that no one uses? I remember how much a science book cost me when I went to college 10 years ago. Times that by how many kids are in 7th grade at our middle school - I think I just found a few thousand dollars to put back into the budget.

#3 - WHY is this particular teacher even using the internet in the classroom? This may seem crazy for me to ask, as I sit here on my laptop typing onto a website myself, but seriously. I am all for using internet in your free time. (In moderation of course...all things...) But, children need to be taught. Not shown a web page, and sent home with a link to click when they need to review notes. Pencil and paper, and WRITING information down is how people have learned for hundreds of years. Before that, people had to memorize things. MEMORIZE. Not read from a web page.

To top this off, this morning, this same 7th grader, who is 12 years old asked me to help him set up an account at a website that is an "internet-radio" type website. You know, one that plays songs on-demand, but you don't have to buy them. Yes, the website is free. I went to the website to check it out, and noticed that there is an element of "social-networking" in this particular website. So, I questioned why he wanted an account there. It turns out that in his computer class, the teacher allows this children to go to this website, queue up a bunch of music, and then listen to the music while they are doing their work. I HAVE AN ISSUE WITH THIS! Am I the crazy one? How is this teacher watching 30 or so students to make sure they are actually not spending the entire class period on this website checking out the latest and most popular songs rather than doing their work? How can she even fathom ensuring that these kids are not using the social networking features during class? Isn't it against the rules to use these kinds of websites on school-owned computers? Why not just let these kids play on Facebook for the whole class. Might I even ad that these children are now being exposed to additional ADVERTISING during SCHOOL hours. These are impressionable young minds. Is this what we are sending them to school for?

At our house, we have a very strict policy about internet/computer use. It is limited to 30-60 minutes per day (governed by a timer) depending on what activities we have that day. That is the end of it. 30-60 minutes for all of the video games, emails, homework, etc. After that, they must find something better to do with their time (playing outside, reading a book, playing with each other!). I feel like putting all of this computer time into the school day is conflicting with our house rules and that somehow we're being overruled by the teachers.

I'm not taking this lying down. I have one email to that particular teacher sent. If I don't get a positive response, the principal gets the next one. As parents, we need to be aware of this kind of thing, and work to change what's not right. Don't make these kids "grow up" faster than they already are.

*** UPDATE *** 11/22/09

I won. Well, I would like to think I won anyway. This website has been disabled in the middle school computer lab. =)

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