Technology use has been a huge part of making this school year possible. Teachers have been busy using new programs and even more students have access to a personal device. While there are many positives about technology, there are also a couple of new issues that have surfaced based on this push to have students online.
One issue for many people in our area is the lack of internet access. Every parent that I have spoken to would love to have access if it was possible, but highspeed internet just doesn’t reach to all the corners of the district. Both teachers and parents, however, have been very creative working out alternatives that have allowed the students to keep learning.
Internet safety/etiquette is also a concern. The more students are on a personal device, the more access they have to information that may not be good for them. Children are very savvy and can navigate the internet easily even at the age of 5. Some of the scary things that are out there are private chat rooms that can be set up allowing strangers to talk with children without any adult knowing. Questionable images can also be shared back and forth. Children are so used to taking pictures and sharing them that if a stranger asks, they may not hesitate to click “send”. Using chat rooms also, makes it much easier to say mean things to one another. The sting for the person on the receiving end is still the same and can if fact be extremely damaging to that person. Some children will be less likely to share these comments with an adult too, knowing that the adults have told them not to use these rooms.
All this technology usage is also a drain on mental health. Even though children may be in a ZOOM meeting with their friends and teachers, it is still not the same as being in class having person to person contact. Children are connected, but they are also lonely. I feel that this is a topic that we need to delve into further and I would very interested to know if there are parents out there who feel the same? Please feel free to contact me at school after the Holiday break if you have an interest or some concerns that you would like to share with me.
A positive of using technology this year, is the Virtual Parent/Teacher Conferences. In the past, the elementary teachers have scheduled an individual conference with the parents of all their students. This has been a successful way to keep children on track academically. However, the normal format was not an option this year, so instead the teachers phone called, or video chatted with the parents. The teachers found this method to be very effective because they could have a focused conversation with the parents without the normal distractions. No one was waiting in the hall and teachers were able to get even more work done between calls. Mr. Dieckman and I were able to meet with some of the parents of virtual students, which also proved to be fruitful conversations. It was valuable to know how technology is working on the home end and what small changes need to happen that will make remote learning better. Currently, the intent is to have conferences in the same format this spring.
The “traditional” Holiday Concert couldn’t happen this year, but the teachers and I still wanted to be able to present something for the parents, grandparents, and community members that would showcase the students. This week the students are being recorded performing their holiday music and those performances will be aired on Greyhound TV next week. The connection to Greyhound TV is found on the school website under the Quick Links that run down the left side of the page.
Just like the parents of our district, the teachers want to keep as much “normal” for the students too. Two teachers, Amy Humke and Polly Lindner worked together to come up with a list of Holiday Dress-up Days and educational activities. Many students and faculty have participated, and it has made it feel more festive in the building. Thank you to SOLES for providing some special treats for the children this week.
I also like to thank a couple organizations this month. First, to Cummins Industry in Neillsville. They have a project called Read to Kids. This project allowed employees to be recorded while reading a children’s book. These recording have now been shared with the district. Thank you to the Modern Woodman Youth Group for the box of hats and gloves that you donated to the elementary school. Also, thank you to Delta Dental for the water bottles that they supplied to the district. These were distributed to the elementary students this week.
Most of all, I want to thank all the students, staff, parents, and community members for making this school year successful. Everyone has given a little bit more to make the world better for the kids and that is the most important thing about being part of a school. May you all have a wonderful and restful holiday season with your families, and we’ll talk again in the new year.