April 26, 2018
Does constant connectivity create unrealistic expectations on educators?
How old were you when you received your first cell phone? How old were you when you used a computer for the first time? Was it in school? Or was is at home?
I was fortunate enough to grow up during that time where technology was emerging and prominent, but not all consuming. As a kid I stayed out until it got dark, had to memorize all the important phone numbers, and grew up with a landline. Yet, as a teenager, I had a cell phone, a MySpace Page, FaceBook Page, and an iPod. Thinking back about my own childhood makes me realize how drastically different it is for my students today: they have smart watches and watch T.V. And movies from anywhere in the world!
I recently read an article that touches on this same topic titled, “Can There Be Too Much Connectivity Between Parents and Children?” In this article, the author discusses the different ways parents are connected to their child’s every move: They can access student grades and attendance at any point in the school year, contact teachers immediately if they have questions (via email), and track both their child and their child’s devices with GPS tracking systems. Towards the end of the article Julie Davis -the writer- posed a lot of different questions that come up in this age of connectivity. One particular question struck a chord with me: Does constant connectivity create unrealistic expectations on educators in terms of responding to emails and monitoring student behavior on devices?
Initially, I would answer this question yes. My school has a policy that teachers can take up to 24 hours to answer emails during the week and 48 hours during the weekend. Yet, parents still see email at text messages, and if I do not respond right away, they send another email asking why I didn’t respond to the previous email. Email not only heightens the communicational pressures, but also other pressures as well. Anytime there is a form or document that needs to be sent to parents, we are told to put it on our PowerLearning Page. Yet, I still get parents who, “cannot find it,” and ask me to email it to them. The creation of email has put a demand on teachers that did not previously exist.
While emails can add some communication stress, I do also believe they can add some benefit as well. I prefer communicating with parents- and actually anything work related- through email. With email, everything is documents and saved; there is no he said/she said conversations. As teachers, we live in a world where documentation is key. And yes while I can document other conversations in other ways, email makes it the easiest because it automatically documents the conversations for me. This is a life-saver that did not exist 30 years ago.
When it comes to monitoring student behavior with devices, this is a struggle I do not really deal with as a kindergarten teacher. Any exposure my students have with technology is usually guided by an adult; they are not old enough to complete research on their own or bring phones to class. This year, I do have students who wear smartwatches to school, and the minute they start to beep or become a distraction, the watches must be put away. Behavior with devices is a real issue for most teachers today, especially when students are getting phones and iPads at younger and younger ages. Combine that with Bring Your Own Device Programs and it becomes difficult to tell if a student is using her cell phone for a class assignment or to look at a Friend’ s instagram.
The bottom line is yes technology has created unrealistic expectations for teachers; but it has also done the same for parents and students. We expect parents to read all the online documents we send them, and then get frustrated when that ask for a hard copy in paper- but some people still like the hard copy! Students are expected to complete multiple online assignments and presentations, yet not get distracted by the other enticing activities that is social media. The truth is that the connectivity that has become second nature in our culture has put unrealistic expectations on everybody, in every profession. The world we live in is more instant and moving at a rapid pace, because it can.
As I got older, it didn’t matter how late I got home as long as I had my cell phone on me and texted my parents where I was. I stopped remembering people’s phone numbers, and I am pretty sure I have not had a landline in almost 10 years. So I end with one last question: What technology do you think our students will be reminiscing about 20 years from now?