Dr. Philip McRae presents the Growing Up Digital Alberta research to teachers and parents at Beacon Hill Elementary School on Fri., Sept. 21. Photo by Kaylyn Whibbs/Sylvan Lake News

Local parents and teachers learn how to help kids ‘Grow Up Digital’

Dr. Phillip McRae presented research from Grow Up Digital Alberta on Fri., Sept. 21

Beacon Hill Elementary School hosted representatives from seven schools for a presentation on the Growing Up Digital Alberta research, recently.

The presentation, which was given on Sept. 21 by Dr. Philip McRae, the lead researcher for the Alberta Teacher’s Association, spoke to a gym full of parents and faculty members who chose to attend.

He discussed the evolution of technology in our lives, where it will go in the future, as well as its place in the classroom, at home and how to use it wisely.

“Technology enhances learning, but it’s a double-edged sword, it can also distract,” said McRae in an interview. “It can enhance and distract. It can connect and disconnect.”

According to the Growing Up Digital research, 71 per cent of Alberta teachers say educational technology enhances inquiry-based learning. At the same time, 67 per cent of Alberta teachers say the number of students who are negatively distracted by digital technologies is growing.

The purpose of the presentation was to provide facts and information to parents and teachers to pass on to their children and students.

“I think people have to make decisions that are informed, that are research-based and that are really thoughtful,” said McRae. “So, the more information they can draw on as they make decisions about cell phones and devices in the home and the school then I think it will better the decision making.”

McRae says the best way to spread this message and information is through having conversations, whether it be in our schools, our kitchens, our classrooms or the boardroom.

“I think this is really about having many conversations so that we can ultimately change the conversation around technology, learning and health,” added McRae.

Although the presentation was geared at teachers and parents, the issue of digital distraction expands even further, he said.

“This is actually a societal issue… I think this is really inter-generational,” said McRae. “This is a conversation about what kind of Alberta do we want in the future? What kind of communities, schools, classrooms and homes do we want to shape in the future?”

The biggest takeaways from the presentation, according to McRae, are the three things to help combat digital distraction.

The first, be balanced. Don’t have phones around the dinner table and don’t sleep with your devices.

Second, be mindful. Think about the age technology is being introduced to kids, how it is being introduced and what it is being used for.

The third, and most important, is relationships and being present both with and without technology.

“When you’re with someone make sure that the technology, if it’s used, it’s enhancing the relationship. If it’s not being used, you need to enhance the relationship,” said McRae.

More information on the Growing Up Digital Alberta research can be found at: https://www.teachers.ab.ca.

“I think being interested and involved in the Growing Up Digital Alberta research is really helpful because it’s evidence that they can make some decisions on and they can find out what’s happening in their world,” said McRae.

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