Random Thoughts

Advice for Parents of 1:1 Programs

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Anna left a comment on my blog post about 1:1 program with MS and HS students that reads:

My son attends a school where MacBooks are required from grades 8-12, and students use many different assistive technology tools. I believe that 1:1 is great as a learning TOOL, but because students have their laptops with them all the time, there is no “down” time when they have to use their own initiative to think, dream, plan, create w/o a screen. He gets up and will open the laptop before breakfast to play, he will play or noodle around with his iTunes in the car on the way to school, on the way home from school, and every other time that kids used to be unplugged. He is not creating, he is consuming. It is a huge fight in our household.

What advice do you have for parents in dealing with this dark side-effect of a mandatory BYOL environment?

by One Laptop per Child

It’s a good question and my first response is what is your school doing to help train parents on both their responsibility and management of technology that the school provides?

Here at ISB we do a couple of different things. We first have a mandatory meeting that at least one parent has to attend we run the same training three to four times at different time periods for parents. Of course the kids make them go as they want their laptops.

We also run a set of 5 courses called the ISB Technology Certificate for Parents. We’ve taken 100 parents through the program over the past two years. Now, not every parents will take it, but enough do and they talk to other parents and the message we give in the courses spreads through the community. Spreading an understanding of the use of the laptops and what parents can do to help support their children at home.

If a school is going to give every students a laptop, I feel, they have an obligation to not only train students but parents on good use of the technology.

My Advice For Parents:

Remember That You Are The Parent

When it comes to technology, many parents feel that they do not know enough to create limits and boundaries. Because of this they do not feel right taking the technology away. You are still the parent and in your house you make the rules. You have every right to take the computer away from your child if you feel they are not having enough “down time”. I know one family that the whole family felt out of balance so they unplug the Internet in their house. So everyone has to be disconnected at the same time. They use this time to reconnect as a family and just have some ‘down’ time.

Create Family Rules

The #1 thing you can do is have a conversation with your child. I strongly encourage every family to sit down and talk about exactly the points you raise. Make family rules that everyone can live by. No computer before breakfast, no computer in the car while someone is driving, etc. These are good times to be disconnected and be together as a family. If the parents also abide by these family rules then there is buy-in from everyone. Everyone having to give it up is easier then “Why do I have to give it up but Dad can still check email on is iPhone?”

Homework Shouldn’t Take Longer

“But mom, I’m doing my homework.” What a great way to play on your computer and waste time. If your school gave 2 hours of homework before the 1:1 program, they’re probably still only giving about 2 hours of homework after the 1:1 program. But students play this card a lot. Set a limit that you think is reasonable and if they don’t finish their homework in that set time, then too bad they don’t get their homework done. If they make the choice to use their time unwisely they pay the consequences. Learning to manage your time is a skill, especially in Middle School, that we all need to help teach students. The computer makes this harder, and also easier. We have parents e-mail or call teachers and let them know that their child did not finish their homework because they were playing around on their laptop. Teachers usually support this, the student gets a zero and usually a good talking to from the teacher. Sometimes if the problem persists, teachers will recommend after school detention or Saturday School as a consequence for not getting assignments done. It usually doesn’t take long before kids get the message.

Are They Really Just Consuming

Many times we think kids playing video games or “messing around” on their computers is not a learning experience. Take the time to watch and ask yourself “What are they learning?”. Creation with the laptop can sometimes be hard to spot. A great example is the game that is sweeping through our Middle School at the moment called Mindcraft. As far as games go these days, it is about as calm and creative as you are going to get. Basically you get to “build whatever you want” and I have to say I have seen our students build some pretty amazing things. Is it playing? Yes, with virtual legos. Creative? Absolutely. Future engineer? Very possible.

Conversation, Conversation, Conversation

Because you asked the question I know you’re thinking about it and it worries you, which tells me you’re a good parent. The best thing you can do is sit and have conversations with your child. Watch them play their games and ask them what they are doing. What do they think they are learning. Talk to them about how much time they spend on the computer and do they think it’s healthy? Take an interest in what they are doing on the computer in their free time helps to open up a dialogue between you and your child about the technology. If they know you are interested then they are willing to listen more when you start asking questions about how much time they spend “connected”.

We Still Know What’s Best For Them

All the tech I took

Now, I’m one of the biggest technology pushers out there but even I value disconnected time. Last year on a high school trip the “tech guy” took away all the technology from the kids. 10th and 11th grades…made them turn in every piece of electronics they had. They hated me for about 2 hours and then magically it didn’t matter anymore. You can read their reflections about the trip here and many of them reflect on just how connected they were and didn’t realize it and what spending a week disconnected did for them.

Disconnecting Doesn’t Always Mean No Technology

We still know what’s best for them even if they don’t think so. It’s important to disconnect and as adults I think we have an obligation to help kids understand this. Disconnecting doesn’t have to mean no technology. I love my Kindle for the simple fact all I can do is read on it. I disconnect every day when I go workout or for a run, yet I have my phone with me playing music or tracking my run via GPS. This is time disconnected yet technology still plays a supporting role. 

What other tips or advice do you have for parents who’s children are in a 1:1 program?

(Contributions to this blog post were made by my wife Daneah Galloway, a National Certified School Counselor.)

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Lindy Buckley Reply

    This is really useful Jeff! Thanks so much for these thoughts,

  2. I love how you’ve presented your information; here’s the “Advice for Parents” page from our website: http://www.asl.org/page.cfm?p=2033

    I’d like to hear more about your Certificate for Parents program. I do a couple of one hour sessions for parents over the course of the year, so I’d be interested to hear what you spend 10 hours covering in these sessions and how the sessions are structured.

  3. Abigail Cooke Reply

    Hello again Jeff!
    I am glad that you have decided to address this question. Although I am not a parent, yet, when I lived with my dad, there was a constant battle between us about when I could be on the phone, when the phone had to be turned off, and how long each day me and my brother could either be on the computer or playing video games. I can even remember having to give him my phone at a certain time of night just so he would know that I wasn’t on it. Of course, this was a few years ago and homework was still done with pencil and paper and the only time the Internet was open for school was for research, and texting hadn’t taken over talking on the phone. Now, children use their computers constantly for school. In fact, I was doing homework last night over at my dad’s house waiting on dinner. When dinner was ready, this is considered “family time”, the computer was to be turned off. I was not done with my homework, so I proceeded to finish only to irritate him even more. I understand that there is time to be a family and time to be “plugged in”. I do not think that children should always be on the computer or playing games. I cannot stand to sit at a computer for hours it literally drives me crazy. There definitely has to be a happy medium. Great post, I think I will direct some parents that I know to read this. It will be helpful for them and their kids! I will be posting mu summaries February 12. Here is a link for my blog: http://cookeabigailedm310.blogspot.com/ and for our class blog: http://edm310.blogspot.com/. I am also on Twitter at @AbigailCooke1.

  4. Hi Jeff,
    Fantastic advice. Thank you so much for all the practical advice. I’m an educator and mom, and tech lover (not necessarily in that order) but I’m very aware of the time we are consuming on computers in my home.

    My father visited a few weeks ago. He laughed when he came down the first weekend and we were all on our own laptops engrossed in different activities: my husband reading the news, my daughter playing Club Penguin, and myself trying to catch up on emails. We do have ‘disconnected’ times – but now I’m thinking we could have better guidelines at home.

    I also want to suggest your parent ‘training sessions’ to my school. You are absolutely correct: parents don’t need to be tech savvy to make good decisions but having the opportunity to get this advice from school is empowering and I would also add the chance to talk to other parents about their situation at home, frustrations and other issues. Parents can learn from each other. Is your PTA involved?

    Your story about taking away the technology on a field trip brought back this friend’s story. She said her father was fed up with how much TV she and her siblings were watching. One day, they came home from school and the TV was gone! Their father said it had broken and was at the shop being repaired. Every day, for a week they asked ‘when will it be fixed’ but during the second week they asked less and less. Finally, they stopped asking. The TV never came back. Later, her father admitted that he just gave the TV away.

  5. Hi Jeff,
    Fantastic and sound advice here regarding children and technology! I found the reflections from the students who got their technology removed from them. I agree that you must have rules for children to abide by in reference to their technology. Building community and family values must not be erased by the newest version of Angry Birds on the i-touch. I wonder if technology will really take over the way it seems to have already? How do you feel about the day when books are replaced with ultrathin laptops and the turn of a page in a great book will never be known?!?
    Thanks for an awesome BLOG!

  6. There is a technology understanding gap between parents and students. Young people understand how to use technology in ways that parents aren’t always aware of. The parent training is a great idea! If parents can understand/be aware of what technology is capable of, they’re more likely to be able to target behaviors that are not conducive to learning AND have the knowledge and understanding to educate their child as to why the behavior needs to stop. Just as you say, Parents should know what’s best for their child. If they don’t understand how their child is using technology, it’s like handing an 18 year the keys to a brand new Corvette. The power of technology can move too fast and students need time and training to understand what they have. 🙂

  7. Hi Jeff –

    As tech coordinator of a MS 1:1, I love your response to this question and it even prompted my own quick response post to share this with our parents (http://oesmstech.wordpress.com). In our Parent Partnership (as we call it), we emphasize three things: Creating a common culture, Starting the conversation, and Staying informed. I like to give people a bit of a mantra to come back to when the issues get sticky.

    Also, I am hoping next year to improve on our parent offerings. Do you offer these classes during the day or in the evening? What is the format? Do you do it BYOTech? How do you advertise it? I would love to know more!

    Thanks for your thoughtful blog posts!

  8. Hi Jeff,

    This is all really good advice, but do you think collaborative learning games can also play a part in the technology changes?
    If devices are 1:1 and become even more essential to everyday learning, do you think there should be more attention given to including software that promotes collaborative learning?

    Check out this and see what you think. Collaborative learning for mental arithmetic on the iPad, http://www.interface3.com/?portfolio=ihavewhohas

  9. Jason Spoor Reply

    This is some great advice. Our district is beginning a 1:1 pilot next year and I know that this will be a challenge. Even in creating assignments that ask students to use Twitter or our class Wiki I have encountered issues with parents that are seriously concerned about the amount of time their students are spending engaged with technology.

    We can’t understate the importance of parents taking an active role in working with their children to set agreeable parameters for technology use. I view one of the primary purposes of my use of ed tech is to help students become discerning and effective technology users later in life, for this to be successful we need parents involved in continuing this lesson and modeling the behavior.

  10. Thank you for sharing! This is some great advice.
    Last week the Tech department at our school shared that they want to start a 1:1 pilot next year. This will be a huge challenge (although we live in Japan and tech is ‘supposed to be’ so advanced here) and this suggestion of change ruffled a great deal f feathers. I believe it isn’t only the parents that are concerned about the amount of time their students are spending engaged with technology but I fear teachers (especially those who have not been developing their teaching along side with changing technology) are also deeply concerned.
    I will share your post with the head of our IT in the hope he will help him to be able to put out some fires. I think he will be quite interesting in the classes you are offering your parents at your school.

  11. Jeff,
    The Technology Certificate is a great idea. Not only do the parents learn something, but it appears that you received some good insight to what the parents are thinking. One of my favorite sayings is “perception is reality”. I can see how students could quickly “blame” the school for them being on-line too much. I don’t think students purposely try to create a rift between parents and the school, they just want adults “off their backs” so they will flippantly say most anything to accomplish this. While looking at the ISB Technology Certificate for Parents link it was interesting to see your “homework assignments” for the parents. You mentioned that teachers may give zeros if they don’t finish their homework on time due to not managing their time. Perhaps the teachers, instead of giving a zero, should have the student learn to use many of the cloud based organizational tools.

  12. Jeff, I really like how you organized your thoughts around issues that are a part of family life, laptop or not. I took a look at the parent seminar pages as well and I thought it was insightful to have the parents complete homework. I would image this really increases the chance that parents will follow through, and hold their children accountable, by using the information that they have learned. So often I hear that parents just don’t know HOW to monitor their child’s education now that learning is happening on a computer. You’ve done a great job of addressing that exact issue.

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  14. Laura Berry Reply

    From an educational standpoint, it sounds wonderful, but there is not enough protection in place to block out things these kids should not be accessing! I’ve trained in computers enough to know that you can/should block things out that do not pertain the what is being used in the classroom. These kids are using them for social networking/bullying, face-time, making phone calls from them etc. I feel my rights as a parent to monitor network activity is being violated! I think there are preventative measures that can resolve a lot of these issues!I think parents can be given a monthly report of their children’s activity and or an app that they can download to see it and what they are doing, I also think lots of things can be blocked out from access! In recent years the MPHS shooting was a result of Facebook/bullying, giving children free roam on the internet is a ticking time bomb, we are supposed to find ways to prevent this from re-accruing, but we are failing miserably! Giving them this the way that it currently is, is like doping your child off in the middle of a busy city and saying good luck, stay safe! I believe the school district had the best intent but put “the cart before the horse” and until better protection to our children and monitoring and blocking out unnecessary sites that do not pertain to their classroom assignments, this needs to be discontinued! You are going to be very guilty and should be thrown the book at, when a minor is hurt or killed, and you did nothing to prevent it!

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Hi Laura,

      Thank you for writing and leaving a comment. I understand where you are coming from and want to address some of your points.

      I’ve trained in computers enough to know that you can/should block things out that do not pertain the what is being used in the classroom.

      Every district is required to block certain website categories during the school day by federal law. They are also required both by the State and by the Federal Government to teach social networking skills to students as well including; chat rooms, forums, and other networking sites. Schools have to allow access to many of these sites so that they can teach students how to use them responsibly.

      These kids are using them for social networking/bullying, face-time, making phone calls from them etc.

      Yes…they will use them to have their social connections. I highly recommend reading some of the research that has come out around this generation and their use of technology. Danah Boyd’s book It’s Complicated is one I recommend often to parents and teachers to read. This link will take you to the free PDF version of the book. A fascinating look at this generation, their friendship groups and how and why they use technology the way they do. As the book title hints…It’s Complicated.

      ..giving children free roam on the internet is a ticking time bomb, we are supposed to find ways to prevent this from re-accruing, but we are failing miserably!

      I couldn’t agree more! We need to make sure we teach students how to use any device in the correct way. Children do roam free on the Internet. Not being monitored by parents and society outside of the school day. During the school day students are tracked and monitored. It is Federal Law that school networks be monitored for safety reasons. Of course outside of school and off the school network this is not the case. Students are roaming free on the Internet and nobody is helping them to understand the power that it has. Schools need to have these sites unblocked so we can teach students how to use them the right way. Students are going to go to the networks whether or not a school blocks them. They have personal cell phones and personal devices that schools have no say in how students use them. Blocking sites does not allow schools to teach students how to use the sites appropriately and does not solves allowing them to go to these sites and use them for evil. Every cyberbullying case I have been apart of did not start at school or occur at school, but rather outside of school and then affect students and their studies. This is a big issue that society, communities, and school need to work on together to help students navigate this new digital life.

      The truth is students are more protected at school then they are anywhere else on the Internet. They are with caring adults who are helping them to understand this digital landscape. They are monitored at many different levels. The things you write about are all very true and are the exact reasons why I believe schools need to be in these spaces with kids, need to help students understand this world, and allow teachers to teach in this world that we find ourselves in.

      I just had a conversation today with a school district where because these networks were open in school they have stopped bullying before it has escalated. They have been able to have conversations with students and open the lines of communication with students around issues happening in these spaces. Opening and teaching these skills are so so important and school districts are using them to protect students. Schools need the help of parents and the community at large in supporting the teaching of these skills and sites.

      Thank you again for your comment. I really appreciate you stopping by and taking part in this discussion.

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