In my collaboration with other Heads of Middle School, I recently found an item written about appropriate use of devices at school.
It is a timely reminder. I have copied the article below, with a few adjustments for context, and made some comments after.
“The use of devices in Middle School classes provides wonderful opportunities to students in ensuring that learning is significant, engaged, future focused and networked. SACS (Swan) is committed to supporting the use of technology in learning but also in developing good habits that will enrich lives, both at school and outside. We do not allow Middle Schoolers to use devices (phones or laptops) during the day, as we want the focus to be on friendship making and relationships.
- Games on devices - Our Middle School staff often discuss ‘digital distraction’ as we seek to guide the students in appropriate practices to promote best learning and good habits at school. Currently we allow students to use games prior to school but once the morning bell rings at 8.25am, devices may only be used as a learning device until the child has left the school in the afternoon.
- Mobile phone use – students in Years 7 – 9 are not permitted to use phones during the school day. Parents should wait till out-of-school hours to contact or text students. It is very embarrassing when students are challenged for using their phone and the mum or dad is on the other end.
- Headphones – students are free to use these on public or private transport but are required to put them away as they enter school property. I highly discourage headphones when walking across roads or at train stations as it prevents an awareness of what is happening around them.
- Appropriate use of social media – students are not permitted to place pictures on their social media accounts identifying school members in uniform or images taken at Swan. Maximum privacy settings should be applied. Sadly, I spend too much of my time having to discuss with students what is appropriate or acceptable to communicate with others online. Cyberbullying or misuse of technology is not permitted.
We seek to support students in learning the positive benefits of using technology. There are many discussions held at school on this matter. We do not seek to be punitive but rather instructive on how we might best learn and relate via the various mediums available for use.”
David Smith, Head of Middle School, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, October 2016.
Middle schoolers are in a flurry of change. They need scaffolding to help them manage risk, yet concurrently need opportunities to become independent. It is a fine balance. In our partnership with your children we encourage you to think through the following aspects of digital citizenship with them.
Research suggests that those who use social media frequently suffer more from anxiety. Conversely, disconnecting from social media just for one week increases happiness. While striving for continuous happiness is a fraught practice, the point is simple and clear. Further, research at tertiary level argues that even a moderate time on social media decreases academic success. On the other hand, students who play video games involving problem solving increase their academic achievement.
Some Swan parents only allow their sons and daughters to use social media if the passwords for all accounts are shared with them. This is exemplary support of Internet use for young adolescents.
We highly recommend that all use of the Internet occur in public spaces in the home, that you change the password regularly, use a strong filter, and that devices are charged overnight in a common public area. Alarming research shows that by the age of 11, 60% of Australian boys have accessed pornography. Let’s together help our young people be the best they can be.
Students are reminded that they are to use only the College Wi-Fi whenever on site, and they must only use their school email address when communicating with, or about, members of the Swan community. This includes but is not limited to: submitting work to teachers, asking teachers for assistance or questions, collaborating with other students on work, and liaising with external bodies in your role as a student.
Social media sites like Snapchat and Instagram may not be used on Swan property. Like David Smith it causes me a great deal of sadness to deal with misuse of such sites. Students are encouraged to use Student Kiosk as it develops to access work, organise their assessment tasks and homework and to seek supplementary work as required.
We will remind students of their Working with Technology Agreement in the immediate future.
Our school believes that digital citizenship is very important. Over the last few weeks, students have heard various presenters speak about digital citizenship. We want our students to be kind and wise.
Next year, one Middle School year group will undertake a detailed course created by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. In addition there will be parent and staff workshops. This is possible because Matthew Woodbine, one of our staff members, won a grant of several thousand dollars. For more information please check out this website: https://www.amf.org.au
We will also begin to scope and sequence ICT literacy and citizenship from Years 4 onwards. You may have noticed that the Subject Handbooks for 2017 all mention digital technologies. It’s a challenge but something we all need to embrace as we nurture our young people.
Thank you for partnering with us in this. Thank you for your conversations and feedback thus far, and we look forward to more. We know that ‘Wisdom is of God’ and using a Biblical foundation to ICT is where we must start.
Mrs Christine Crump
Head of Middle School