“Equipping students to impact their world for Jesus Christ”
--NorthPointe Christian’s mission statement
I liked NorthPointe's mission statement 20 years ago and still do.
I frequently use it as a quick test of activities I plan in teaching young people to use technology. I ask myself, “Is this helping them to grow in a way that they can better impact their world for Jesus?” It has also guided us throughout the implementation of NPC’s one-to-one MacBook program as we consider how technology might or might not be helping us accomplish our mission.
In my role as NorthPointe’s Technology Integration Specialist, I have a front row seat to observe how young people use technology.
They are always connected: hanging out, doing homework, sitting in class. Their music, their photos, their friends--it seems as if their whole life is in“the cloud.” It’s not the device; it’s the connection that matters. The kids stay connected even when most of us are sleeping. I’m no longer surprised when I get an email sent at 3 AM from a student who wants access to a website from which they’ve been blocked. They just have to connect to their peers and what's out there. It’s their reality, their world.
As parents and teachers, we tend to see the device as a problem. Some of us want to control it: take it away, limit screen time, block access to apps and websites, etc. Others of us throw up our hands and are tempted to do nothing. We know we need to protect our kids, e.g., “Don’t touch the stove. Look before crossing the street.” But controlling devices seems harder, more confusing, and constantly changing.
Even though our children are skilled in using this digital world, we still need to help them navigate it. They need our help to figure out how to impact their world and how the virtual world is impacting them. They need our guidance in discerning right from wrong, good from bad, what builds up and what destroys. They need us to show them how to interact with others appropriately, how to protect themselves, and how to use their time wisely. Like most lessons in life, helping our kids navigate a digital world takes time and effort.
Start with prayer.
It seems like a Sunday School answer, but the Lord gives wisdom to those that ask.
Then set age appropriate boundaries. Internet filters are a wise place to start, but internet filters aren’t perfect, so I suggest having younger kids use their devices where you can occasionally look at the screen.
Like it or not, our children become older, more independent, and need to make wise choices with no teachers or parents around. We need to get them ready for those choices. You can use something like Covenant Eyes which is a great tool for Internet accountability.
Accountability needs to be a two-way street (otherwise it’s just spying), with sons accountable with their dads if possible. As they grow in maturity and in their ability to discern, you can give them more freedom. When they fail, we need to help them learn from their mistakes.
Talking with kids about relationships has never been easy, but the digital age makes it even more critical. Unfortunately, girls need to be told that they should not send nude pictures of themselves to boys; boys need to be told that it is not appropriate to ask for them. It’s good for all of us to remember that a thoughtless comment or an ill advised photo, once posted, is beyond our ability to control and could have consequences we never intended.
Help your children learn that not everything in the digital world is as it appears. That cute 17-year-old guy who just Snapchatted your daughter may really be a 40-year-old predator using a photo he scammed online. Online predators will use guilt and shame to pull your kids into deeper trouble. Build trust with your kids so that they can come to you even if they have made a mistake.
Lastly, model appropriate digital behavior for them. How much time do you spend in social media? Do you text while driving? Do you put your phone away when they need your attention? It’s knowing that what we practice is what students most imitate, which includes how we use our devices.
Parenting has never been easy; at the forefront of the digital age, it sometimes seems even more complex. Yet the digital world is a resource we have to steward.
Even though your kids may know more about the latest digital social trends, they still need so much that they can only get from you.
Fortunately, you don’t have to understand binary code to pass along what matters in life.
A year of NorthPointe Christian’s Makerspace has seen a positive shift in student learning and curiosity.
Last summer NPC transformed our middle and high school media center into a space that would allow increased hands-on learning by designing and making things. Increasingly, research demonstrates the need for project-based learning to teach creative, out-of-the-box thinking skills to adequately prepare students for the real world. Our Makerspace enables teachers to more easily implement this type of learning. This Makerspace has plenty of tools, materials, and wide open tables and we’ve seen it come alive this year with engaged students.
Throughout the year, students have pulled apart and then repaired instruments to discover how they work, worked as a team and problem solved to create marble roller coasters, and engaged in science experiments. Middle school Market Place groups also benefited from the makerspace in developing their businesses.
Most recently, middle school social studies teacher Jerry Duckworth used the Makerspace for his final exam. For the final project of his 8th grade class, he implemented a different kind of test. Mr. Duckworth asked students to choose a meaningful historic topic and create a scene, artifact, or hymn that represented a significant event or person in American history. He required students to consider the year of study, then plan and produce something that would make visible something of what they learned, and finally present their projects to the class.
NorthPointe eighth graders came up with a range of final projects including Alexander Graham Bell and the telephone, the Washington Monument, the pin-hole camera, and the battle sword of George Washington, to name a few.
Student Grace VandenBerg shared "I really enjoyed our history final project. I learned a lot about Lincoln's assassination, which is what I chose to do my project on. Creating the model really helped me visualize how the event actually happened. I knew a bit about the assassination, but this project pushed me to learn a lot more."
Beyond the created models, students were required to write answers to two questions:
1. So What? “Can you tell me the way this impacted, changed, or played an important role in America’s History?” and
2. Now What? “In what ways is this topic relevant for our life today?”
Mr. Duckworth weaved these critical thinking questions throughout his teaching all year. He emphasized not only the facts of history, but invited students to engage in critical thinking skills and consider the impact of history and the way in which it intersects with our Christian worldview and mandates.
You can bet this is one test students won’t forget the next day!