Want Technology-Literate Students? Start with Their Parents

Teachers, understandably, often focus on their students. And wise teachers recognize that their students will need to be technology-literate in order the succeed in the coming years. But in order to truly accomplish this goal, teachers might be well advised to start not with the students but rather with their parents.

First, once you consider summers and holidays, children will spend more waking hours at home than at school. This means that a technology-literate home environment will benefit students in ways that a classroom infused with edtech will not. This makes it imperative to help parents become technologically literate and motivated to help their students navigate the digital world. Teachers can coach and guide parents to select edtech resources that will increase student learning during those crucial times spent outside of school, particularly during the summer. Parents are also in a position to help their students mesh edtech and real-world experiences, such as with app-guided museum tours.

Second, parents are often very concerned about the quantity and quality of the digital resources that their children are consuming, to the extent that they might disapprove of homework or enrichment assignments that require or encourage their children to spend additional time in front of a screen. It is essential for a teacher to explain the merits of any online assignments that are sent home in order to address this problem, or they run the risk that parents will not support their efforts to harness digital learning resources.

Third, parents are usually key role models for their children. And so if the parents are not using technology well, it is unlikely that their children will either. Many adults have trouble distinguishing “fake news” from accurate information, and they are likely to have children who mirror this situation if there is no intervention. Teachers are perhaps uniquely positioned to help parents, children, and entire families develop the digital literacy skills that they need to navigate the modern media environment successfully. This would include not only the ability to vet sources but also skills in managing their private data.

While it is understandable that teachers would focus their efforts at promoting digital literacy on their students, there is much to be said for a more nuanced approach that does not leave parents out of the equation. After all, today’s parents are usually young enough that they were not taught digital literacy or digital citizenship skills when they were themselves in school. Their children’s teachers just might be the ones who can fill the gap.

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