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The gift that's kept on giving - and why

Miles showing off the space left by lost tooth #2. (10/13/13 at 7:59PM)

Some of you may remember (or not), that I gave my two older grandsons iPads for Christmas last year. (See Instructions for iPad Use.) And I think it's been the best gift I have ever given - to myself!

As I remind the boys each time I see them, the only thing wrong with them is that live too far away - seven hours of driving when the weather is good. This limits physical visits to five or six times a year. Just not often enough to keep up with these rapidly growing guys.

But the iPads help bridge the gap. The boys send me texts including gibberish, selfies (see above), and silly emoticons and cartoons. (Forget e-mail!) We video conference using Facetime about once a week so I get to hear the boys play piano, see their Boy Scout awards, and even say "hi" to their mom and dad once in a while. I get to ask how school is going, what they're reading, about soccer and concert band.

The primary reason the iPads have been a positive influence is not because of Grandpa, but because these boys have very smart and very caring parents. (I'm sure it is at least partially genetic.) They monitor and limit the use of technology in their lives. (The boys can't take their devices into their bedrooms at night.) Both parents are tech-savvy, especially their dad who was an IT guy in an earlier career. While they both love gaming, they are also voracious readers, play musical instruments, draw, participate in sports and Scouting, and do very well in school academically. They have lives offline as well as online. 

I love technology. I use it a lot. It's my job and in many ways my hobby. I feel lost when I leave my phone at home and when the wifi in a hotel room doesn't work. But the more I use technology, the more I see a need for the kind of balance that my daughter and son-in-law have helped Paul and Miles establish. 

School must balance technology with reading, with creativity, with F2F collaboration, with physical activity, with adult supervision, with adult caring. My professional goal is to see that all my district's students have adquate, reliable, and ubiquitous access to technology. But even more importantly, I want them to acquire the sense  to use it wisely - including knowing when to turn it off.

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