Rise of the Machines
We live in a technological age. According to the Pew Research Center at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, 93% of teens surveyed have, or have access to, a computer at home. Additionally, 95% of teens are online according to the same report.
These are incredible statistics, especially when considering that a generation or two ago the computer and internet were not common place in American homes. What is even more startling is that today’s teens are breaking new ground where internet, computers, and social media are concerned. Much of what teens have access to today did not even exist when their parents were in high school.
For homeschoolers, this is particularly important to note because parents are educating their children in a new atmosphere. Traditional brick-and-mortar schools are being replaced, at least for homeschoolers, by new forms of education. Books and workbooks, notebooks and rulers are giving way to eBooks, tablets, smart phones, and YouTube.
Not Laura Ingalls’ education
In a world where the homeschoolers are stereotypically and incorrectly seen as Little House on the Prairie type education, with children huddled around the kitchen table, homeschoolers are actually ahead of the technological curve.
Far from being isolated at home, homeschoolers are using technology to further their education by casting a broader net where information gathering and access are concerned. Instead of simply searching an outdated encyclopedia at the library, homeschoolers today are searching the internet for the latest information on a subject. By using this broad base for educational information students are becoming better prepared and at earlier ages.
Some homeschoolers are particularly adept at using technology because of their remote location or the fact that their family is mobile, educating as they travel, also known as roadschooling. Online curriculum, such as Time4Learning, make individualized education available to the homeschool student. Remote access classes and free-ware classes offered by major universities like MIT provide distance learning not just to college students, but students as young as pre-K in the homeschool setting.
And where does this leave homeschooling parents? In some cases parents are playing catch-up to their students. Technological advances seemed to start out slowly, and at high cost, in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Today many computing devices such as tablets, and smart phones, are practically obsolete before the new wears off. Technology is certainly not slowing down, and parents need to stay aware of what is available for their students, not just in terms of opportunities, but in terms of pitfalls, as well.
Today’s students have been well exposed to the rampant rush of technology almost from birth. The age where babies are quietly put to bed in a darkened room seems to have been replaced by blinking lights, interactive toys, crib cams, touch screens. By the time students are school aged, they are not afraid to try new technology, and they expect instantaneous interaction. In fact, it may be possible that our children are learning a new way to learn with technology leading the way. In response, homeschooling parents must stay knowledgeable, and adapt to this new way of learning for the sake of our students.
So, what’s a parent to do?
When it comes to technology in education the best advice is to homeschool parents is to “keep up” because today’s students will not hesitate to leave you behind. Speak with other homeschooling parents regarding how they are using technology in their homeschools. If you come across a new tech situation, share this with other parents in your homeschooling circles.
• Don’t be the clueless parent. Don’t allow your child to utilize new technologies without sharing them with you. Keep the communication with your tech savvy student open.
• Don’t be afraid to manage the technology in your life and in your homeschool. Find balance, and make sure that technology is used as a tool. Don’t be a slave to technology.
• Don’t allow technology to become a babysitter, or to usurp your position as parent and teacher.
• It is better to lead by example than to follow in the dust. Direct parental involvement with technology, and the educational opportunities made available by its use, will not only model the behavior you want your children to adopt, but also encourage openness.
• Make sure that your children are aware of the potential dangers of internet use, not to cause fear, but to encourage caution.
Finally, when in doubt, ask a teenager. Teens are not afraid to experiment with technology, and they certainly aren’t afraid that they will do something wrong, or break things. Allow the student to become the teacher. By allowing your teen to show you what they know they might show you adaptations of technology that are not in the instruction manual, but were discovered by trial and error. As an added bonus you, as the parent, will know what your student already knows.
Technology is not going away, nor is the speed at which it develops slowing down. Homeschooling parents need to use every resource to its best advantage and this includes technology. Revel in the opportunities that today’s technology affords and potential just over the horizon.
And perhaps most importantly…Keep up!