Dear PLC Sydney Community
‘Never be a slave to something that is less than yourself.’ C S Lewis
Technology is a subject that is of interest to all parents.
A pencil is a technology as much as an iPhone is. We utilise the products of technological processes in manufacture (e.g. clothing, vehicles) as well as technologies to help us undertake tasks (e.g. laptops, vehicles) every day.
This week at a breakfast I hosted, a parent of a younger child asked me about how the school approached technology in the senior school. She was really interested in how we monitor phone use. I told her about the new program we have initiated to monitor student phone use and about our encouragement to parents to have all technologies ‘put to bed’ so that students don’t suffer FOMO (fear of missing out – that terrible pull to keep the phone on into the early hours in case someone they respect contacts them).
Underneath it all is a way of understanding life. It fits in with one of the early biblical commandments: ‘make no idols’. Or, in C S Lewis’ phrase, ‘Never be a slave to something that is less than yourself’.
In practical terms we could break this down to a series of practices.
Some practices highlight the dangers in technology which necessitate a response which helps the young person to see the problems technology can cause:
- We stop students who are texting whilst walking because they are both creating a possible danger to others and they are prioritising a fleeting technological contact over a face to face one
- We ensure students don’t have their phones on and operable under their desks in class because the learning teachers are leading is more important
- We encourage students to build their ‘face to face’ skills because as humans we need personal interaction. Continual remote communication leads to isolation
- We make students aware that phones and computers can enable people with bad motives to deceive them – child pornography and fraud being two horrible examples
Some highlight the opportunities and the ‘goodness’ in technology use:
- We can connect easily with people across long distances and thus maintain friendships
- We can access information and images with ease and thus stimulate learning
- We can call out to others when in danger and thus potentially get help which otherwise would not be forthcoming
- We can use the huge range of learning tools in the classroom to make learning vibrant
Note that in the first examples technology seems to manipulate us. We become dependent upon it. It becomes addictive. In the second examples we use it. We reject it when it is not useful and embrace it when it is.
This overall framework for technology applies to other things too. We can enjoy gardening or become a slave to our lawns; we can enjoy following a sporting team or make it a god.
This fits in with our learning framework. We are seeking to teach ‘wisdom’ (our school motto: Sancte Sapienter – be holy wisely). We are seeking to teach the wise use of technology.
The other aspect of technology is teaching students to be able to control what it can do. Thus we teach the algorithmic thinking linked to coding from Pre-Kindergarten. Here is a video which shows what we are doing.
I hope you can see the underlying desire to assist girls to take charge of these machines and to make them work for us. This process also enables them to see how others can use technology to influence them. It leads to discussions about what we value. And these, we believe, are the most important discussions to have.
Dr Paul Burgis