Technology is ever-prevalent in a student's life, from video games and television, to IPODs and cell phones. Limiting children on these technologies so they know when their usage is helpful and when it's interfering can prove to be a priceless tool in a world full of devices beckoning for attention.
Annette Scribner, technology director for Highland School District, said children as young as 5 and 6 start school with a general knowledge of computers and technology, and teachers use that prior knowledge to develop their technology goals.
"Most of our students are established digital learners when they come to us in kindergarten. We, as teachers, must utilize and grow our students' prior learning styles and methods," Scribner said.
Today, nearly all public schools are equipped with computers. Shaun Winsor, technology director of the Salem School District said, "We have between 275 and 300 computers with Internet." According to the Secretary's Fourth Annual Report on Teacher Quality, 99 percent of schools with computers offer internet access and Internet resources as well. Highland and Salem School Districts mirror the technological advances of schools around the country with the latest Internet capabilities, such as offering parents an opportunity to view a child's grades. Lesson plans and even detailed summaries of test scores on-line are available in Highland, according to Highland High School Assistant Principal Clint Shackelford.
It's not only in school that a child is exposed to what seems to be an endless black hole of useful and sometimes false information. American students are in school 180 days a year and the remaining time is left to the parents and family. A survey conducted by Pew International and American Life Project reported that an estimated 21 million youth between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet -- 87 percent of that age group's population. Seventy eight percent of those children say they use the Internet at school and 86 percent of those pre-teens and teens think the Internet helps them do better in school.
According to the same survey, 71 percent of teens who go on-line said they relied on mostly Internet sources on their last big homework project. Although these numbers most likely won't shock the average parent in 2008, a lack of knowledge about how to properly use the Internet can serve as a barrier between a child's education and a parent's ability to help their child succeed.
Studies consistently show that students with involved parents, regardless of income or background, were more likely to succeed in school and in life, according to the Arkansas Department of Education. Students whose parents are actively involved in their school work are shown to earn higher grades, test scores and enroll in higher level programs. Teachers at schools like Highland and Salem hope the Internet will be utilized as a tool to help parents monitor their child's progress.
Winsor said, "Teachers use (the web site) a lot," and the Internet is a good learning source.
"Technology provides a wonderful parent/student/teacher communication tool. We want our parents and community to be an active part of their students' and community's future," Scribner said. Winsor agrees that parents should be highly involved with their child's Internet use.
Although the National Center for Education Statistics lists Arkansas in the bottom seven states for computer access as of 2007-- 40.5 percent of students have Internet access in Arkansas classrooms-- our state standards for schools and teachers include technology goals. If the technology aspect of learning is a standard met by teachers, parents should be striving to keep up with those goals as well, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Public schools in Arkansas are required to make sure their technology plan provides documentation on how technology is being used to support goals in their district's Consolidated School Improvement Plan. The first advice given to parents by the USDE is to know that plan so your teaching at home can correspond to what the student is learning at school. In doing this, a parent is creating an environment that encourages learning and school work.
The USDE recommends establishing a daily routine that includes separate time set aside for homework and the Internet and when the two are one in the same, help your child search or look over what they have found.
When in the past sitting your child down and studying a book was enough, today, parents must know how their child is surfing the Web for information and more importantly, what sites they are landing on. The USDE advises parents to show their children how to use and evaluate information they find on the Internet.
Some key factors in a reputable and educational Web site will be a lack of commercialism, a copyright date at the bottom of the page (the earlier the date the better) and contact information. Make sure it's easy to decipher who's created the site, why and when.
"Not all on-line information is reliable," the USDE Web site warns.
With an endless supply of information, it is easy to be tempted into aimlessly surfing the Web, and the USDE said that making sure a child's browsing on-line doesn't take the place of homework, social activities or other interests is extremely important. Many studies have shown that a child who spends too much time on the Internet can loose valuable social skills that are important in the work force.
The Internet can help turn your home into a place of unlimited information and communication with up-to-the- minute news, an array of educational Web sites and can help build your child's technology skills which are becoming more important each year in school and afterwards. By including themselves into the Internet and student equation, a parent can help ensure the success of their student in an age where technology is growing faster than many's understanding of it.
"Parents need to 'log on' and explore the vast possibilities available to their students. I would recommend starting with a safety Web site like I-Safe (http://www.isafe.org) or NetSmartz 411 (http:// www.netsmartz411.org) to become acquainted with the good, bad and ugly of the Internet and its resources," Scribner said.
Although Salem and most other school districts have Internet filters through the Arkansas Department of Education, some additional tips for a successful student from the USDE include:
* Tell your student to NEVER give out personal information such as passwords on the Internet without your permission.
* Allow your student to see you using skills you learned in school-- read a book, a newspaper, calculate a check book and use the Internet responsibly.
* Find out as much as you can about the school your child will be attending -- How much time will be spent on each subject? How does the school measure student progress?
* Talk with your child about school and tell them you think learning is important: Children develop positive attitudes towards school when they see their parents and family value education.