March 14, 2010

Parent Surveys on Student Uses of Technology

Last year I used a self-designed parent survey that gave me feedback about what parents know about their child’s use of technology at YES and what they themselves use of our electronic resources.

I chose to use the Common Sense Media parent survey this year to find out more about student technology use at home. 

The questions ask about a student’s access to media, the hours they spend using various forms of media and the Internet and the concerns they have about usage. Sixty-nine parents responded and the numbers were evenly divided over the grades and genders of the students. Almost all the households have television with cable or satellite access and DVD players. Most households also have computers, broadband access, video game devices, cameras and music playing devices. Very few students have their own cell phones (6%) and none have phones with Internet access.

Parents reported that 30% of students watch 0 hours of TV during the week, close to half of all students watch 1 hour and 20% regularly watch 2 or more hours. According to the survey over 50% of students read books or magazines for a purpose other than schoolwork while 18% use the Internet for schoolwork and 32% use it for games and/or social interactions. It’s great to see a lot of use of books by choice and due to the young age of the students I would expect more Internet use for games than homework.

I was a little bit surprised that parents reported that ¾ of the students use the Internet for online games. I would imagine that it is some of the same students who are also in the 1/3 of students who explore virtual worlds like Webkinz and Club Penguin. Parents report that about ¼ of the students use the Internet for information and research. Given that our students are 7-10 years old I was a little surprised how many students are playing online games which means they are often playing with others. Since parents are reporting this much use at home it is certainly time to be talking to all students about Internet safety principles. I am using videos with classes and sending home materials for parents.

On the question about common concerns parents may have 53% of parents are concerned about their child being the victim of a cyberbully, but 75.8% of parents are not concerned about their child actually doing the cyberbullying and according to the students only 3.4% of parents have actually talked with their kids about this topic. These responses indicate that giving kids an arena for conversations about cyberbullying is appropriate in the classroom and parents may make use of materials I send home.

We didn’t have a PTO sponsored Parent Education evening this year about Internet Safety, but I have talked to some parents about planning a session for the fall. This session could also address concerns about exposure to inappropriate content, stranger contact and privacy intrusions. Like most parents, Yarmouth parents are interested in learning what their kids are doing with media and technology, and how this impacts them. Most parents report that they are talking to their children about what types of media they can access and the amount of they can spend. They also report that they frequently address the critical analysis of media content and maintaining privacy.

It’s good to see that parents support the use of the Internet for their children to learn about things they are interested in, to learn about different cultures, and to learn about current events. As is appropriate for this age of student most parents don’t see use of the Internet as a social exploration for their children.

My next steps are to ask some similar questions of my students to compare their responses to those of their parents and then share that information with our faculty. Common Sense Media has a set of student questions that I will adapt to use. I am teaching a short series of Internet Safety lessons first so that students will know that I am familiar with their full range of uses of games and learning activities on the computer.

Three-fourths of the parents surveyed agreed that they thought it was important for media and technology to be used in schools and most of them indicated that having this access has a positive impact on their child. I will be sending out Internet Safety information via. email as I teach student lessons in the coming weeks. I am also adding more parent information to my web pages online at and

March 9, 2010

Global Awareness with Panwapa

Many thanks to Brett Pierce (Executive Director of Panwapa at Sesame Workshop) for visiting our school and teaching a lesson on "Needs and Wants" from the Panwapa Teacher Materials. The students have enjoyed our explorations with Panwapa cards as a way to discover the interests of students around the world. We look forward to the upgrades that are planned for Panwapa including links to Google Earth. Our third graders have explored continents, regions of the world and the lives of children in other cultures.