With many children around Australia returning to school today or in the days ahead we spoke to Tech Expert, Trevor Long and Positive Psychologist, Michelle McQuaid who have teamed up with Officeworks to make the back to school transition easier for parents. We asked Trevor for his best tech advice for parents buying devices to help children at school.
How important is tech becoming in the classroom?
The great thing about technology is the way it’s enhanced what kids are doing in class. Last 5 to 10 years the proliferation of technology in classrooms in phenomenal with electronic light boards, and computers in every classroom. Some schools are now requiring computers as part of a child’s day-to-day class work. You can’t have education without technology these days.
What are some of the challenges parents and children face as a result of the proliferation of technology in schools?
Cost. Whether mandated by school or peer pressure. Parents feel obliged. Perhaps they aren’t obliged to overspend when something cheaper will do. Parents should set a budget and be guided by the school as to what they need to have, followed by what you want them to have. If you are on a tight budget perhaps the use of a shared device at home is an option for your family. Some parents may be able to provide a device for each child. Challenges are around equity. Setting a budget applies to all technology purchases and you should know the minimum technical requirements. You don’t want to find out that the device you choose doesn’t work with other technology the school is using. Officeworks have the tech selector which sits to the left of the screen on the Officeworks website as you are searching products. Pop in all your specifications and your budget. The selector Filters out devices that don’t fit your criteria and you are left with the choices that you can afford.
At the moment Officeworks are price matching and parents can be assured they will receive the best prices on back to school essentials with Officeworks’ Parents’ Price Promise running until February 12, 2016 . If parents find an identical stocked item on their child’s school list at a lower price, Officeworks will beat it by 20% (T&Cs apply).
How can technology help children with their studies?
This is the exciting part. I think back to my childhood and buying study guides. I’m blown away by tech today. Young kids using PowerPoint. My 7 year old uses PowerPoint. He does simple PowerPoint presentations that I didn’t teach him. He learnt at school. When you look at how kids can use this to do homework it’s amazing and is an enhancement of learning and development. Something parents may not realize is learning and development outside of class and homework that is available. Kids can learn through apps, and simple games. These are now subliminally or intentionally helping kids to learn. Officeworks has an app called growing minds that helps kids to learn. If kids ask for screen time you can suggest that they use learning geared apps during allotted screen time.
Where can parents get help with the set up and any technical issues with their child’s devices?
I get those calls all the time. Everyone has the nerdy nephew. Someone in the family who is the go to person for tech. There are a bunch of services out there. Those in your family who can help you can be a fantastic resource but you are probably going to get the best advice from a professional. Officeworks has a tech service, which helps people with installs and glitches. They can help you set up networks and connected hardware. When a child goes from one level of tech to another that can present parents with issues, but getting the right advice makes it much easier. One of the things you need to think about is during the year when a child has a deadline. The last thing you want is a problem right on deadline. Think about what technical requirements there may be before you need it so you aren’t frantic right on the deadline.
We also spoke to Positive Psychologist, Michelle McQuaid who has some great advice to help parents identify kids strengths and encourage their positive behavior.
How can parents help children discover their strengths?
Younger than 10 are the easiest group, look for when they light up, their voice becomes animated, and their eyes light up. Pay attention to what they are talking about. Young people 10 and older can complete a great survey at character.org to help them identify their character strengths.
Pay attention to the language you use with younger kids. With my 5 year old, we could see his love of learning facts about animals. Even though he couldn’t read, he would be looking at animals in books so we could see his persistence trying to work out what was happening on the page. We praised his willingness to stick with it and let him know that we were proud of him.
What can parents do to reinforce positive behaviours of their children?
Big one actually look for them. Our brains are naturally wired with a negativity bias. We are much better at seeing what kids are doing wrong rather than what they are doing right. We tend to say the bad things rather than the good. Set a goal to find two or thee things that you can see them doing well. Hunt for the good stuff. Be attuned to what they are getting right whether little or big. Telling them what we see and why we appreciate it. Don’t just them they’ve done a good job; tell them why you appreciate it.
Do you have any tips for parents to include children in family decisions about what activities they will do together?
One thing we know from research, the more heartfelt and genuine the experience the better our resilience is over time. What creates heartfelt positivity for your kids? It can be a Saturday arvo chilling out and watching a movie and eating popcorn, write ideas on a slip of paper pop in a jar and pull them out when you are looking for something to do and make time to spend together and enjoy heartfelt positivity together. I like to call it a jar of joy. It can be any activity from going to park, board games etc. As the year goes on and we start to feel worn down its much easier to reach into the jar and find inspiration.
Connecting with our kids can be difficult in our busy lives, how can we foster that sense of connection?
Quantity is sometimes a luxury we don’t have. Quality of connection is most important. Try and be fully present. Turn off technology. Put it away for a couple of hours until the kids go to bed. Be fully present. Try and listen to the stories they are telling themselves. We are constantly trying to figure out why things are the way they are. Particularly with kids and trying to catch the stories and see if that is a really true story or is there a plausible explanation or connection in that story. Nobody likes me or such and such is mean. Instead of just being busy or slightly distracted and saying oh tomorrow it will be better. That’s a great teachable moment. Sit down for 5 or 10 minutes and talk about it. Is there another explanation? Help them build the skills to change the story and find the reason things happened. Tuning in is really important for the connection we have with our kids and helps them build the skills they need to navigate their lives more successfully.
As parents we often expect perfection of our selves. We need to give our selves permission that we are also learning and growing. Show up with the best intentions. Love them as much as you can and tell them as often as possible.