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Monday
Jul102017

Will school-issued devices stop the summer slide?

In Mind/Shift's post "Schools Let Students Take Laptops Home in Hopes of Curbing 'Summer Slide'" (June 27, 2017), author Mollie Simon writes:

“Summer is the most unequal time in America,” said Matthew Boulay, the interim CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. “I think we tend to have this idyllic view of what childhood summers are, but the reality is that for kids living in poverty, summer can be a time of isolation and hunger.”

While some students head off to camps and family vacations, others are left without the resources that accompany a school year, including school lunches, sports teams and a place to go while parents are at work during the day.

Creating more equitable summer learning opportunities is why our district decided to let our 9-11 grade students keep their Chromebooks over the summer.* With the Chromebook, the hope is kids will continue to read the online resources both we provide as a district and those they find of personal interest and relevance at the public library and other places online.

Infographic source

For me, using a device to access reading materials outside of school (including over the summer) is one of the most powerful reasons for our 1:1 program. A long time devotee of Stephn Krashen and his book The Power of Reading, I am convinced that keeping kids reading over the summer will do more to close achievement gaps in our district than summer school.

Yet another part of Simon's article gave me pause when she observes:

Letting students leave for break with their laptops in hand is not enough to cut back on inequality though, New York University professor Susan Neuman said.

“One thing we too often focus on is the sexy interventions like sending home a mobile device, but those people who haven’t had the experience will use them differently,” she said. “In low-income groups the kids would use the games and cheap thrills [available via computers], whereas those kids that had been mentored with a parent next to them use it as a prep school in a box.”

Neuman said it’s important for schools to provide parents with information on the best way to use the devices. Since not all parents are equally familiar with technology themselves, schools can level the playing field by telling them about good online learning sites and best practices for limiting screen time.

This is an area on which we need to continue to work - parent education. We will be starting this fall with offering "Digital Parenting" classes through community ed. but they will focus on safe and ethical use, not necessarily extending the conversation to positive educational uses as well.

Any suggestions for programs that help parents, especially those in lower socio-economic levels, become more proficient in helping their kids use their devices to eliminate the summer slide?

 

*This decision was not made without some concerns on the part of staff members - What about the kids who move over the summer? What about the kids who will just use the device to watch movies? What if the device gets lost, broken, stolen? Each are probably legitimate concerns for some students, but it seems to me we should make decisions based on the behaviors of our best students who are the majority of our kids.

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