What is Technology doing to our boys?

06 November 2020
Lockdown was certainly a 100-year challenge that we all would rather not face again. The effects on learning for our boys was quite profound. Families faced multiple challenges in continuing work and having boys at home undertake learning, all whilst under the same roof.

Online learning
Our remote learning plan followed the tips from Andrew Fuller where we used sessions with teachers who worked through Microsoft Teams to give explicit instruction and mastery of knowledge in short duration. We then combined collaboration opportunities, using the technology in teams to have set tasks that boys could work on in their own time, ask questions of each other by having class assigned teams, and of the teacher, whilst promoting wellness in the afternoons to connect with family, get outside and allow time to reflect, recharge and plan.

Microsoft Teams played a pivotal role in our online learning delivery. It gave us tools to schedule live lessons, record video for playback in specialist areas for boys to access, gives the senior members of staff direct access to students to assist in learning and remain connected and monitor students’ submitted work and give immediate feedback on learning outcomes. It was very successful!

What is the right balance and what are the effects?
Jordan Shapiro who wrote ‘The New Childhood: Raising Kids To Thrive In A Connected World’; says yes! Screen time can be useful, quoting that “You can have a child who’s so excited about programming electronic music with their laptop, if they spend eight hours composing electronic music I doubt that’s going to bother parents in the same way that video games bother them.”

Technology has changed the way, we as adults live, work and play. It is no different for our boys. They all live in a world where technology is what they know. So how as parents are we embracing this world and how can we help? We all want the best for our children. To allow them to grow and develop in a way that aligns with our set of values. It has never been more important for us to be connected to each other, build and foster strong relationships and open lines of communication.

If you’re worried about technology, then get informed and talk with your kids. It is a partnership between schools and home where we have the hard discussions about what we are doing and make informed decisions. Technology is not going away for our kids and we must embrace it.

Key facts for parents we cannot ignore
Some key insights that research has long held that need to be thought about are:

  • Blue light emitted by screens has been shown to inhibit the production of melatonin and makes it harder to fall asleep.
  • Students learn better when they have been well-rested for their brains to optimally function. This is also true for getting our boys to bed using regular routines and not having sleepovers on school nights.
  • Engaging in critical conversations. Are we aware of our screen time? What is ethical use of technology and how are we working to stay within acceptable boundaries? Are we positive role models as users of technology?
  • As educators and parents, we need to make the hard decisions and should do so for the health and wellbeing of our boys.

How does Wellesley use technology?
Wellesley has made significant advances using digital technologies. All students have access to a device where teachers can explore using technology to advance academic outcomes. Sometimes it’s as simple as using programs to consolidate learning like Reading Eggs, Maths-Whizz or Mathletics. Other times it’s teaching critical thinking skills when boys research online using the Internet. Ensuring we are challenging our boys to check information gleaned from the web and align multiple sources to validate opinions.

In our pastoral system, we use Family Zone  filtering systems to ensure parents have access to information about what the boys are doing online and they can make informed decisions, outside school time, on what they allow their boys to view. At school, we monitor this system and filter access to sites based on age-appropriate material to keep our boys safe. This does not mean that teachers ‘check out’ of the monitoring process, they are still  vigilant in keeping an eye on what boys’ access in class.

As boys get older, the social media platforms have a strong attachment. We know this as adults, as many of us use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn daily. Connectedness is important but we must never lose site that the digital world is far different from real life. Therefore, Wellesley uses our pastoral systems to respond to any digital inappropriateness, talking with parents, and providing insights on ways we can all be better.

So how and when do you talk with your son about these things? In the back seat of the car when you’re driving is a good start. Boys generally engage better when you’re not looking at them. In fact, any environment where they feel comfortable is better than one to one.

The environment is key
At Wellesley, we leverage this environmental aspect of learning in several ways. Firstly, the actual place they learn is a beautiful, engaging and fundamental aspect of our education. Being located between the bush and the sea, we have a plethora of resources at our fingertips to engage learners. It’s being part of the Enviro Group or contributing to the Wellesley Sanctuary or just using the bush and beach in the learning cycle.

Secondly, it’s about creating engaging classroom environments that suit boys. We do not subscribe to the open plan learning environment, as we feel boys need their own desk, their own locker, their own space which they hold responsibility for. They have their own device, supplied by the school in years 1-4 and brought from home in years 5-8.  We teach our boys when it’s appropriate to use the different spaces. When being taught explicitly about content, how to read and write, mathematics, they sit at their desks. When it’s time to collaborate and research, boys can move about, they can talk and construct their own knowledge using real world tasks and developing skills they will use as they mature.

Finally, it’s about good relationships where boys feel valued, safe and known. Teachers have the largest impact on student outcomes. Boys, especially, need to know they’re cared for and valued by their teacher. This key aspect of Wellesley permeates throughout our school and is a value we hold onto dearly.