The Tech Driver Ed Program

There is a ton of “stuff” here at the NYSCATE conference: gadgets, interactive whiteboards, clickers for student response, hardware, software, laptops, mini notebooks, document cameras, and on and on. Lots of ideas circulating about how to use it all, the need to take a stand on where we’re going as districts, the difference between what the kids are doing inside our walls and outside with technology.

The biggest idea I’m walking away from this conference with is the same one I’ve been reading about for the four years I’ve been reading/blogging now. I have to be a mom for a moment to explain it because I think many of my best decisions as a school leader are made when I consider, “what do I want for my own son?”

Our son Tallon is sixteen years old. He’s learning how to drive a car. We ride with him. I make suggestions that are sometimes more urgent than at other times. He listens, he adjusts. He’s learning to make good decisions behind the wheel. I’ve included conversation about how much we love him and how potentially dangerous his decisions can be and how important he is to us and therefore how important those decisions are to us. Follow? We’re taking at least six months, countless hours of practice, and further restrictions until he gains lots of experience even once he has the license.

I know that ultimately, he’s a sixteen year old boy and in the time of his life when he may make decisions that have consequences beyond his immediate consideration. I remember being fearless at his age, driving way too fast, getting pulled over and then the police officer/judge working to correct my behavior. I remember listening to my parents, I knew what was right or wrong, I made decisions for better or worse.

In my son’s use of technology, who’s doing all of the above? Many of his friends’ parents, my peers, know a lot less about technology than I do. Who’s talking to them, boys and girls, about the way they look on-line? About the social connections they’re making, the information about themselves that they’re giving away, the light in which they portray themselves, the bullying that’s taking place, the websites that expose them to content they don’t need to see, the future potential consequences of their decisions? Who’s helping him to understand this: “while you may not care now that your full name is on that YouTube video you created with your cousin, someday you might when a college admissions counselor says no, or a potential employer.”

See the point for me isn’t that we prohibit him from EVER doing anything wrong. I’m not delusional, I know that’s impossible. I just want him to know the consequences and to make a more informed decision. Even when our kids know the consequences, they still take risks. But right now, I’m fairly certain that our students don’t even understand the risks or long term implications of their on-line identity or of cyber bullying or of the importance of limiting what’s out there for others to see. Do they?

I know he’s going to figure out the how of using technology, in incredible ways that I couldn’t even imagine. I just want to be there to talk about it, to reason it through with him, to be a parent (and how many of our parents don’t have a clue on this topic?) and to help him understand. I totally want him to go for it with his creativity and connections–just want it to be in a smart, responsible way.

So if kids don’t know how to participate in a smart, responsible way and parents don’t know how, what the heck are we waiting for as teachers? Kids have the keys to a car that no one else in the family may know how to drive and we haven’t designed our driver’s ed programs yet. Or should I say “still”?

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