Last night my daughter’s elementary school had parent’s night and announced a new technology program for grades 3-5. Students now have the option of bringing their iPad or iPhone with them to school. A mere 12 hours after this announcement the school’s Facebook group is being flooded with the usual complaints that the kids are too young for this level of responsibility, what if the device gets damaged stolen, etc. This of course is accompanied by the omnipresent modern protestation device, a plea to email a high placed executive asking them to “to reconsider this program or at least hold a community forum to get input from parents”.
The most frustrating part to me of these knee-jerk protests to any change is the overreaction. The school is not considering allowing students to carry concealed handguns or eliminating teachers completely. Instead they are trying a new program to take advantage of tools the majority of students already own. Will the program be a success? I have no idea. Will some devices be broken or stolen? Very possibly. If the program turns out to be a disaster will the school cancel it? Very likely. But I believe it would be far better for the school to try this and other new programs and have them fail miserably than not try at all.
We move to neighborhoods like ours for the quality of the schools. Everyone always says they want our public schools to be more innovative and take advantage of new technology. Yet here is a school trying to do exactly that and facing resistance from the very parents who’s children would be the primary beneficiary if the new program is a success. And why? Because a few devices might get broken or stolen while being used to try provide a better education to your child? Have we become so risk averse that we’re no longer willing to try to improve the world around us because of the risks to completely replaceable inanimate objects that are already halfway obsolete?
I understand how people have legitimate concerns about the frailty and costs of these devices and worry about entrusting them to an 8 year old. But there’s a flip side as well, the act of trusting what is obviously a very valued possession to an 8 year old provides an incredible opportunity for success and growth as well. Our children are not incompetent, our schools are not crazy, our iPads are not sacrosanct. Combining the three is extremely unlikely to have a severe negative impact on any of the involved parties and may even do some good. But we will never know unless we override our default reaction of risk aversion and give new things a try before pronouncing them to be without value.