The Internet: 2017’s Newest Brain?

As a former high school English and Spanish teacher, I’ve seen the pros and the woes of technology in the classroom. I was never one of those teachers to bring down wrath for the mere sighting of a phone, but I have been known to confiscate a phone here and there for misuse. I mean, wouldn’t you love to be talking to your child, completely engaged, just to realize that they’re nodding and responding to their screen and not to you? It’s truly flattering, isn’t it?

Once, in the middle of taking a quiz on The Kite Runner, a student pulled out his phone … in the middle of a quiz! I walked over to the student and quietly took the phone so it wouldn’t cause a scene. A conversation followed that incident about not using technology in the classroom.

I’m sure you parents have had moments where you wanted to take that phone right out of your child’s hand. No. Questions. Asked.

It’s easy to see why phones can frustrate us, even when many of us feel we couldn’t live without them. But when it comes to our children, how can we gauge whether they’re using their phones wisely, or misusing them? How can we know whether they’re counting on Siri to give them answers, or when they know the answers themselves?

Frankly, the line can sometimes be a bit blurry.

PhotoMath is a free app that many students now use to help navigate through the winding world of arithmetic.

An article from Forbes describes the app as a great way for students to see problems worked out, step by step. The app was designed to help make math more understandable to students, and it might give them the help they need that they might not be getting elsewhere.

But while the app can help students understand how to break down problems, it’s also notorious for its ability to help students cheat—even in the middle of an exam.  In our microwave generation, students want their answers as quickly as possible, and often times they will go to great lengths to get what they want. Technology makes can make cheating oh-so easy.

But not all apps allow students to cheat. One app in particular, Kahoot, is a great tool for parents to use with their kids, or for teachers to use with their students. The app turns any boring lesson into a gameshow: It allows teachers to plug in their own questions and answers, while students can use the Kahoot app on their own phones as a buzzer to answer questions. It’s like Jeopardy in your hands!

With the wide world of technology at the fingertips of most kids these days, I think it’s important to remember that technology is a tool. And just like any tool, we can use it well or we can abuse it. Encouraging your kids to think on their own, without the help of Siri, is obviously crucial, but using technology to advance your child’s academic success … well, what parent wouldn’t want that?

It’s exhausting to have to constantly monitor your children and their technological world, but making sure that your kids understand academic concepts without their phones is crucial. And, when appropriate, using technology to help them learn is great too.

Raising intelligent children in a generation where our phones can think for us will certainly be a challenge. But if we’ve fought wars, overcome depressions, and survived stock market crashes, I think we can handle cell phones … can’t we?

Who wrote this?

Kristin Smith is the most recent addition to the Plugged In team. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. When she's not writing or editing, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, Eddy, and running through Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods. She loves coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan), and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first baby, Judah.

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