Friday, October 3, 2014

Middle School Use of Electronic Devices Clarified

The following letter from Bob was sent to middle school parents today:

Dear Parents,

On September 18th, we wrote to you about student use of cell phones and other electronic devices on campus. In brief, this allowed 6th and 7th graders to bring such devices to school but to use them only under the direct supervision of an Island School official. 8th graders were given the privilege of unsupervised use of such devices during breaks. While encouraged to limit their activities to educational purposes, these would not be monitored unless there appeared to be a problem.
Responses from students and parents have mostly been positive. We have seen a dramatic increase in healthy interactions among the students during breaks, from playing various pick-up games and sports to carrying on conversations with each other. What we hoped would happen – a decrease in huddles about electronic devices and an increase in direct involvement of students with each other – has occurred. 

At the same time, some parents have raised questions about their ability to text or e-mail their children during the day. Let me offer a note of clarification: Any student can check for messages during the day so long as this is done under the direct supervision of a school official. In other words, if a 6th or 7th grader wants to see if he or she has been contacted by a parent, or to send a message to them, the student may go to a school official and request permission to use his or her electronic device for this purpose. Otherwise, the device is not to be seen.

Some have asked why the 8th graders are treated differently. Frankly, this is an experiment. Nevertheless, 8th graders are older, and we would like to give them more responsibility, acknowledging that this separates them from the rest of the Middle School. So far, we are unaware of any problems this has created.

Technology continues to develop, providing new avenues of communication and new approaches to education. We are striving to keep pace, taking advantage of opportunities technology offers while meeting challenges it raises.  Student use of electronic devices on campus is an example of this as are teacher applications of numerous educational programs that enrich instruction.
Please continue to let us know of ideas you have about ways to effectively and productively deal with the marvelous and quite powerful developments of our modern world.