From Atari to iPad, a Parent’s Reflection on Technology

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Atari 001A recent conversation I had with my first grade son….

My Son: “Mom, I want an iPad for Christmas.”

Me: “What? Why do you want an iPad for Christmas?”

My Son: “Because I am tired of sharing our family iPad and I want to have more time to teach myself new things.”

Me: “Well, hmm, let’s think that through and see what we can do.”

My Son: “Ok, I will save up my chore money to buy an iPad.”

Me: Smiling :)

I have a feeling that several parents have had this same technology conversation with their children at some point. My husband and I both work in technology, so we have plenty of conversations around this topic. In our conversations, we discuss and realize how our children will need to be tech-savvy for their future careers. As parents, we try to balance screen time, outside playtime, and family outdoor adventures. At the same time, we are amazed with the knowledge our children are already gaining because of their experiences on our family iPad. Thinking back, our parents probably had the same conversations about us spending too much time on the Atari. Yes, we are that “old-school” and the 80′s rocked. Lots of good memories of Atari competitions, MTV, VCR’s, cable TV, and new TV remote control technology (although we fought over the remote too, hmm).

During our conversations, my husband and I compare and contrast our elementary school experience to that of our children. We remember our teachers setting up old film strip projectors for instructional use. Sometimes the light bulb would burn out or the film strip would melt from leaving the projector on for too long. Sometimes the big white pull down screen, on which we watched the film strips, would not pull down correctly. Many times while teaching, the cumbersome “technology” would breakdown. While the Teacher would get worked up trying to fix the screen or projector, we would be happy to get a chance to start talking. In reflection, I think about all the gizmos and gadgets our teachers had to manage. It must have taken a lot of coordinating on their part. It also makes me realize how much teachers do for their students.

As we progressed through school, the Computer Lab made a “grand-entrance” into our high school. The Lab was tucked way in the back of the school where only the “super-smart” students learned computer programming. As the years progressed, the computer lab concept grew in our schools. But for me, I had to wait till college. The Mac Lab was the newest and “coolest” in technology. The lab had a limited number of Macs, so students had to sign up weeks before to allow for plenty of time to complete our projects. It was during my journalism class, which used Macs, when I finally learned how to use a computer. I loved it. However, at that time, we did not have the Internet. My husband and I often wonder how did we make it through college without the Internet or own personal computers, laptops, or iPads? Using the Library was a pain. We could not stand to use the dreaded card catalog; it never made sense. The Librarians could not understand why we had no interest in learning how to use it.

Through the years technology has evolved. As a teacher, I used the computer lab with my 5th grade students. The students created and organized their projects with paper and pencil. I managed student time in the computer lab and computer time on our two classroom desktops. It would take the students weeks to finish a project because we had to share computer time with the whole school. I did my best to integrate technology with student learning, but sometimes it was a nightmare to manage. (This reminded me of my old teachers and the filmstrip projectors.)

Fast forward, my husband and I are now parents of two elementary students in a school district which is working to integrate technology into the everyday classroom. The School District envisions the future for our children and they want to help our children learn new technologies because technology will continue to evolve throughout their lives.

At this point, is where the above conversation I had with my son comes full circle. Both of our children are using learning apps, such as Splash Math on the family iPad. Their school teachers are also encouraging students to use apps to enhance school learning at home. My husband and I both realize that the classroom is a very different place from the days of film projectors, record players, paper and pencil. iPads have opened a whole new world of learning. Students in the elementary classroom today can learn, communicate, collaborate, create, integrate, organize, and practice academic skills, all on one device. The ideas are endless. Teachers can now streamline teaching, complete assessments, collaborate, report, use multi-media, etc. a long way from the “filmstrip days”.

So yes, as parents we do monitor the amount of “screen-time” our children have, but we also realize that technology will play a bigger role in their education and future professions. We still make sure they have lots of outside playtime to explore the world without technology. Yes, my son will probably have his own iPad soon; he is working on his chore chart. Shhh, don’t tell our kids, but we have to admit, it is sort of a pain when we have sibling arguments over iPad time. After all my husband and I also had the same sibling arguments over Atari games :)

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Beckie Mostello
Former Elementary Teacher turned Techie Parent, founder of Tech Talk for Moms and Creator of various other projects across the Internet.
Beckie Mostello

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