When I was in school, I remember my mom telling me that my dad thought typewriters were the end-all be-all for technology. This is why he never progressed passed peck-and-find typing.

Let’s just say that in 2009 he called from a combat zone to ask how to turn on his computer…

I feel the same way.

A few months ago my husband bought an iPhone X. The face recognition technology freaks me out so I decided that technology is done progressing.

Well! Apparently, the Virginia School District disagrees and I need to keep learning.

Shannon is in 7th grade and had parent-teacher conferences this week. Keeping in mind we are only about 18 years older than our child, holy cow times have changed!

Virginia students have one-to-one iPads. The majority of her homework and classwork is on the tablet.

As a parent, this means the old tricks for keeping tabs on her don’t work anymore. No longer can I rummage through her backpack and pull out crumpled paper to see how she did on a test or assignment.

I can’t simply be handed a worksheet; instead, she pulls out the tablet, opens an app and …

I slowly move toward the door. What is this monster in her hand? Why isn’t it made out of paper? How do I “deal” with it?

It is a scene right out of an Alfred Hitchcock film. I scream and flatten myself against the wall. Somehow the iPad has morphed into Norman Bates!

I take his knife...and remembering the money we would owe the school if I destroyed the thing, I call for my husband to rescue me.

To be clear, it isn’t the assignment that scares me. It is the technology.

I think I will name her iPad Norman Bates.

Having school work focused around a tablet is so foreign to me. While I was in college (I graduated from grad school in 2012) I had my laptop, but I didn’t bring it to classes with me. It just seems like a step was skipped from when I was in school until now- we went from paper to tablet.

I wonder if this is how my parents felt? And there are over 30 years between us in age!

So as a message to all parents of 7th graders: We can do this!

We must adapt and learn with our children. We cannot give up- they need us to be there with them, working through problems and monitoring their usage.

Why? Because a tablet is different than paper.

When I was Shannon’s age, we would write notes to friends (with gel pens) and intricately fold them for easy passing in the hallway. Although colored ink is still important to my daughter, she can easily message or text the same messages to her friends.

What is the difference? Technology.

Technology has a memory longer than the empty tissue box in which I saved all my folded notes. She is creating a technology footprint that will forever follow her.

With the great educational opportunities presented by the iPad, so comes risks.

Where my parents could dig through my bag or bedroom to read my notes, similar to what their parents before them did, I need to use the technology she uses. I need to go onto the apps or messaging systems- which means that I need to know how to use them.

In the same way, we need to understand the programs they are using in the classroom so that we can support our children’s learning at home.

We all have a story of a parent (my mom) who couldn’t help with a certain subject (math) past a certain point. How does that make the child feel?

I remember thinking, “My mother is a successful career woman. She is smart. She doesn’t know calculus so why should I? I can be just as smart and successful without the pain of that class.”

Now I am a successful career woman. I am smart. I haven’t taken a math class since I was a junior in high school. Where would I be, what could I accomplish, if I had?

Now imagine that from 7th grade on your parent takes a back seat on all of your homework- not just math.

Where would Shannon be in 18 years? Yes, she will be smart but will she have lived up to her full potential? If I don’t learn the technology should could think, “My mother is a successful career woman. She is smart. She doesn’t know how to use technology so why should I? I can be just as smart and successful without the pain of learning.”

I don’t want her to look back and ask Where would I be, what could I accomplish, if I had?

Ok- that’s our problem- We don’t know how to use the technology. What is the solution?

Our children, their teachers and school district hold the answers.

I am going to regularly sit down with my daughter and ask her to teach me how to use the iPad, apps and such that fill her day. I need to show her that I am willing to learn because I expect her to learn.

I could reach out to individual teachers, and I feel comfortable doing that, but what are the chances I will follow through?

Therefore, I would like to publicly ask the school district for help. Support my learning so that I can support my child’s learning.

Ugh, learning is hard and I don’t want to do it. Could you help me? Is there a way that you could offer parent classes on iPad use so that we can better help our children?

Use small groups! Technology is intimidating and I don’t want to make (even more of) a fool out of myself.

Here is my bright idea:

Similar to parent-teacher conferences, have night classes where all the teachers for a specific department and grade teach the parents. For example, all the 7th grade English teachers hold a session where they go through the programs they use throughout the year. IT folks will be on hand. Bring your student to help and don’t forget their iPad! (I’ll have Shannon and Norman!)

Honestly, right now her iPad is so foreign to me, I don’t touch it. I don’t want to break it! Unfortunately, that has put a barrier between me, my child, her social life and education.


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