For those of you who are folk-music fans, you may remember the Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are A-changin’.” One particular verse speaks to me now as much as years ago when we think of how the world has evolved with regard to technology:
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
I am a digital immigrant, for sure, while our students are digital natives. Not one student at St. Michael’s has grown up without exposure to technology. Even a two year old can navigate an iPad with more ease than I can fathom. Although there may be times when we all wish that we were not wedded to our cell phones or computers, in reality we are. Our students communicate, study, socialize, and connect through their phones, using them to do just about anything they need on what is essentially a palm-sized computer. They share pictures, take selfies, text between friends, and post more about themselves than we can often imagine. And this is happening at younger and younger ages, sometimes before a child is ready to manage the responsible use of a tiny, web-browsing personal computer.
So what is our responsibility as a school to help ensure students’ safety while helping them to learn how to use technology in a responsible way? Here at St. Michael’s we begin teaching Digital Citizenship at a very young age. Through the primary and intermediate grades, as students move toward middle school, we talk about safe use and issues of privacy. Students learn how to navigate the web, sorting good sites from ones that have less than reliable information. We discuss the importance of positive messaging rather than using words that are hurtful, embarrassing, or unkind. We share examples of how easily information can land in the hands of the wrong people, offering strategies that protect identities and guard confidentiality. This is not a “one and done” lesson. Rather, it is a conversation that needs to be ongoing at school and at home. Having a growing knowledge, understanding, and appreciation for the power of technology in a digital world, we hope to be a part of raising the awareness of our students about the responsible use of technology. As a balance to this, however, it is important that our students not lose sight of the importance of relationships with family and friends that result from time spent together, away from cell phones and computers, in face-to-face communication.
Together we can guide our young digital citizens as they navigate a world that holds a wealth of knowledge as well as unlimited possibilities. Technology is not a passing fad but rather the gateway to discovery and new ways of learning. Our students have much to teach us as we continue to be their guides and mentors along the way. For the times they are a-changin’.
Head of School