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I’m worried about our children.

I’m worried because our teachers:

  • Don’t have access to the latest technology tools their students are already using.
  • Don’t have the technical skills to keep up with today’s learners.
  • Not required to innovate on the delivery of their current offering.
  • Must enforce outdated policies from the district.

I’m worried because most parents:

  • Don’t always use the latest technology during the day for work.
  • Don’t monitor their Internet connection for privacy and security.
  • Don’t know how to restrict usage for their kids across different devices, applications, and websites.
  • Don’t have the time to learn new technologies to keep up with what their kids have access to away from home.

It’s sad because our children have access to so much more technology than before and are forced to slow down when they get to school. But before I go any further please let me emphasize that I appreciate you if you are a teacher. I appreciate that you are paid more in smiles and hugs than you are in salary. And I appreciate the commitment to modeling how parents are supposed to behave as much as you do with the students. It’s not your fault.

When my son was enrolled in kindergarten, I didn’t know he would be hooked up to Zoom meetings during the day. A five-year-old boy diagnosed with ADHD shouldn’t have to be forced to take classes that way. What’s even more disheartening is he is required to sit through hours of a virtual class relearning the same things he did two years ago. When I observed him in his virtual class, I caught him watching a YouTube video on a web browser over the top of the Zoom application while the class was going on. Even though he was smiling nicely at the teacher, he wasn’t at all engaged in what she was saying.

Once a man or woman’s mind has been exposed to an idea or concept, it can never be satisfied to going back to where it was.”

Oliver Wendell Homes

I’m here to tell you there is a better way where you can combine technology into the classroom, but it has to be done in a methodical, tested, and safe way for everyone involved. You have to understand the benefits and the risks associated with each technology otherwise, you put your child in danger of an unanticipated consequences you never saw coming. For example, if schools are going to supply laptops, they should lockdown 3rd party websites and supply blue light glasses to protect our children’s eyes too. I feel as if it’s my responsibility to help you as a parent determine what is best for your child and you as a teacher to understand how to bring new technology into the classroom so you help accelerate their learning path from home.

In this post, Eight Things They Don’t Teach You About Technology in Kindergarten, I’m going to break down each one where the student, teacher, principal, and district can come together so we help our children establish a safe foundation for future success.

#1 Monitor At-Home WiFi connection to devices

How many devices do you have set up at home? Add up the number of computers, tablets, mobile phones, smart home devices, voice assistants, printers, and security systems. With one swipe, you should be able to disconnect your child’s Internet connection to any device or a group of devices from any room in the house. If you have a voice assistant like Alexa and have a five-year-old, you need to be worried about what they can listen and not be able to make purchases for Paw Patrol Amazon Prime for Kids on their own. It’s important to set up a mesh WiFi network like the EERO, where you can create an Internet usage profile for each person in your house and assign certain devices to the profile. That way if one child is acting out, open up your mobile one and disable all of their devices at once without interrupting another family member on theirs. It takes two seconds to disable the Internet connection to all of the devices and two seconds to turn it back on all from your mobile phone.

Here is one Internet usage profile. I recommend creating one for each person in the house.

#2 Monitor Access to Online Browsing History

I don’t believe young children should be able to perform Internet searches on their own. Should they stumble across an image, a video, or article that contains obscenities, the website should be marked and blocked from future access. Also, the ability to communicate with anyone on a public server using web-based apps should be restricted. Unfortunately, schools, teachers, and parents have not created or reinforced policies around this area putting children at risk even though everyone has the best intentions.

Choose the best plan to help monitor the activity.

#3 Download Highly-Rated, Award-Winning Educational Apps

The kid’s category for mobile apps is overwhelming and difficult to determine whether each one is suitable to engage at the right skill level without making the in-app purchase to explore more content. It may be tempting to hand over your phone and watch your child swipe however you need to sit and watch them while they are using the device. Otherwise, they learn how to swipe and try multiple options without paying attention to the learning task to perform. Swiping does not equal learning.

Here are some apps I recommend checking out:

#4 Set up an Amazon Echo Dot, Show or Fire TV

Alexa is like another family member. She’s always on. Always listening. Always ready to lend an answer when you have a question or need to get something done. Four years ago after I had bought my first Echo Dot and started using it with my son to do learn the definitions of basic words, math, and play music, I realized how much Alexa could be used as a learning acceleration tool. If you ask an Echo Show, “Alexa, what is a Tiger?”, you will see a picture of a tiger along with a Wikipedia definition of a tiger on the screen. If you ask, “Alexa, what is 10 times 10?”, Alexa will show the equation and the answer on the screen. Once your child has mastered the basics, find an Alexa skill certified in the skill store that tests their abilities like a game, except it’s all done by voice.

#5 Create an Alexa skill using Blueprints

Now that you know Alexa can say some really interesting things out of the box, understand you can get her to say anything you want. Plus you can choose the words to say to Alexa to trigger her reply without knowing how to write a single line of code using an Alexa Blueprint. Think of a blueprint like a Microsoft Word or Powerpoint template you can customize. The easiest blueprint to work with is the Q&A template and you can customize it right from the Alexa app on your mobile phone. When your child hears Alexa say what they typed, their minds are quickly filled with more possibilities where you need to maintain control.

#6 Program a Robot

Kids love things that move. If they show any interest at all with electronic toys that move, blink, and they start taking them apart, you might have a future programmer or engineer on your hands. While it might be unreasonable to expect your five year old to learn Python, Lambda functions, and IoT implementations, there are easy-to-use programmable robots like the iRobot Root you can give to your gets to teach them the fundamentals of coding.

#7 Set up a Minecraft server on a Raspberry Pi

In December 2020, my son wouldn’t stop raving about Minecraft. At first, I was opposed after watching some YouTube videos because of the language being used. The thought of my boy in a world of zombies, witches, and mobs sounded terrifying. Little did I know there is a “builder only” Pi version you could deploy on a Raspberry Pi processor. A Raspberry Pi is a microprocessor chip that has ports to hook up an HDMI monitor, keyboard, mouse, and sound outlet. Watch this video of him showing you how he runs a Python script to build a virtual world in seconds.

#8 Journal Experiences

I think just about every parent likes to take pictures and record videos of their kids doing something for the first time. Every moment is an opportunity to capture a memory that is saved to reflect upon the past in the future of now. When parents take capture these memories, they tell them from their narrative, not from the child’s perspective. One of the best gifts a child can receive is a gratitude journal to help document why they should be thankful for all of the things they have in this world. The second best thing is a YouTube channel.

You might think that a child having his or her own YouTube channel can be risky because what they might say, do, and creepy people on the Internet who might be watching. Once he got started recording videos, we learned we needed to have some rules in place and review them each time we record so that he can set a good example for other kids. He doesn’t interact with anyone live or in the comments section. He does talk about making more videos so other kids can see what he is building and can teach them.

Subscribe to his channel and watch some of his videos. Comments have been disabled. Thanks for watching!

The future

When I reflect on my past, I grew up with Atari and there was one button. Kids today are expected to learn a keyboard to operate Zoom in kindergarten. Think about that for a minute. The person my son talks about the most is Preston Playz. He is a 26-year-old Minecraft streamer who has 9.9 million YouTube subscribers and last video I saw received 650k views in less than 24 hours.

Kids consciously or subconsciously are exposed to technology and explore ways where they can show others what they can do. I don’t think this is right or wrong. It’s a whole new era where we need to start enabling our kids and minimize the risk associated. We can’t keep looking back in the past with what worked, otherwise, we might keep our children stuck in our own paradigms. It’s time we have a conversation about it and I’m happy to help lead that discussion.

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