Parenting 2.0: Teach Tech and Empathy, Fight for Equity

Here are some of my current parenting questions:

  • Should I be using math flash cards with my four year old?
  • Am I being too lax or lazy when I let my daughter watch YouTube PlayDoh videos while I attempt to do other things?
  • Does my daughter’s preschool focus too much on play? Shouldn’t she already know how to read and write?
  • Should my one year old learn how to code? (You read that right. I had the 5 second thought that my son should learn to code after I saw a Tweet Mark Zuckerberg sent out about teaching kids to code early–he did not say they should learn at 15 months; my mind just went there).

Since co-writing and publishing Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning I’ve been busy having conversations about parenting, children and education. I am humbled by how much I don’t know and also by how confused I am about what and how my kids should be learning.

Parenting 2.0

In the next 5 years, parents will continue to wrestle with how much access kids should have to technology and what type of access is permissible. Expect a further entanglement of our online and IRL (in real life) selves, to the point at which our online selves may become more important than our in person selves. This is already happening and I expect more: Listen to this Ted Radio Hour podcast on screen time.
As more of our life is online, teaching computer science, coding and digital literacy become increasingly important and valuable as economic and survival skills.
Perhaps conversely, the more we are online and not face to face, we very much need to deepen young people’s understanding of what it means to be human, how to cultivate empathy and how to foster social and emotional learning skills.
Parents, get ready: How we help our kids balance the technical and increasingly online aspects of life with their human capacity to feel, love and create may be our most important job.

My husband and daughter looking at the inside of a space shuttle on our Virtual Reality View Master.

Who has options?

I am regularly fielding questions around the “dizzying array” of options for learning with parents- in person, online learning opportunities, various different types of schools and various names for various types of learning movements and philosophies. It’s no wonder parents are confused.
At the same time, for many students, there are far few too good options.
The contrast is clearer now to me more so than before we published the book: On the one hand, I chat with parents about choices they have, decisions they have to make. I am one of them. I listen, I nod my head, I agree and help provide insights based on what we learned from our almost two year investigation and subsequent blog series around parenting for powerful learning.
On the other hand, I recognize that there are far too many parents and students left out of conversations around education, with zero choices or only really bad ones.
So here’s your next job: Want choices and options that you want for your own kids, for everybody’s kids. Parent advocacy 2.0 means advocating for all kids. (I wrote a blog about this based on the book by Robert Putnam called Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis which I recommend). Go help the neighbor’s kid, become a mentor, get involved in schools, speak the voice for the voiceless. If you have power and privilege in this country, use it to help those who do not. This first begins with a strong sense, and a deep understanding of your privilege, position in your community, and recognizing your own potential to creating lasting change. This doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. If you need baby steps, this can be as simple as following and sharing on social media about the work of other people that are doing equity work. This could also be as simple as recognizing the inequities and figuring out ways to talk to your kids about it. How we teach them to stick up for and champion the voiceless matters. Big time. This work needs all of us on board, including and especially children.
I recently had the opportunity to chat about Smart Parents with Dr. Will Deyamport on The Dr. Will Show. Dr. Will leads discussions about how educators are using a multitude of technologies for professional development and for reimagining their classrooms. In our Google Hangout, we talked about the role parents can play in shaping their children’s education.
We discussed how the world is rapidly changing and the impact technology is on the way people learn.

Dr. Will and I spoke about my own kids, Getting Smart’s Generation DIY project, students and schools that inspire me– including Alex Angelo, a high school student and entertainer who attends an online school so he can pursue his passions. We also talk about parenting and coding, freelancing and the “gig” economy and the importance of social and emotional learning.
To join the Smart Parents conversation, use  #SmartParents on Twitter  and find me at @belathram. If you have a story to share about how you are encouraging powerful learning at home and at school and everywhere in between, email [email protected] to share your story.
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Bonnie Lathram

Bonnie Lathram is a student advocate and former teacher.

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