By Will Richardson

One of my favorite things that Sheryl says when she talks about the challenges that schools face right now is that this generation of kids in our schools is the first not to have a choice about technology. Most of us grew up in a time when technology was an add on, and for many of us, we still see it as a choice, especially in education. (Just the other day I was at a meeting of about 25 school leaders and teachers to discuss how social learning tools can be infused into an inquiry based curriculum and only one person was using technology to take notes…me.) I look at my own kids and I know that technology will be a huge part of their learning lives because a) they want it to be and b) they’ll be expected to be savvy users of the devices of their day to communicate, create and collaborate (among other things.) They’re not going to be able to “opt out.”

That no choice theme is borne out by a new Kaiser Foundation report that came out this week. The title sums things up pretty well: “Daily Media Use Among Children and Teens Up Dramatically From Five Years Ago”. And here is the money quote:

Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.

Anyway you slice that, kids are immersed in media, and that immersion is having huge effect on the way they see the world and on the way they learn. And while most of that media consumption is still tied to more “traditional” forms like television, the computer now takes up, on average, almost 1.5 hours and it is the fastest growing medium on the list. It lead the director of the study to say:

The bottom line is that all these advances in media technologies are making it even easier for young people to spend more and more time with media. It’s more important than ever that researchers, policymakers and parents stay on top of the impact it’s having on their lives.

It’s interesting to me that she didn’t mention educators in that list of folks who need to be paying attention, because more than parents and policymakers, we’re the ones who need to help kids make learning sense of their time with media of all types. And I emphasize that learning piece of it because all too often those opportunities and being blocked and filtered away in schools instead of made a basic part of the curriculum. Right now, most schools are making what I think is a bad choice by not immersing their students into these online learning environments which are creating all sorts of opportunities for us to learn. In doing so, they’re implicitly saying that technology is an option. It’s not.

Probably my favorite quote from Seth Godin’s book Tribes is this:

Leadership is a choice. It’s the choice not to do nothing.

We may not feel comfortable in a world filled with technology. We may not like the way it’s changing things and, even more, how fast it’s changing things. We may not like the way it pushes against much of what we’ve been doing in schools for eons. But our kids don’t have a choice. And if we’re going to fulfill our roles as teachers in our kids lives, neither do we.

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Sheryl is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Powerful Learning Practice. She works with schools and districts from around the world helping them to infuse technology into their curriculums and by leading other digital conversion efforts. Sheryl also consults with governments, educational organizations and non-profits in development of their various professional learning initiatives. Sheryl is a sought-after presenter at national and international events, speaking on topics related to digital and online learning, teacher and educational leadership, online community building, and other educational issues impacting children of poverty. Sheryl served on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Board of Directors for six years. She co-authored The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age with Lani Ritter Hall. Sheryl has four children and four grandsons, Luke, Logan, Levi and Tanner and a trio of dachshunds. You can find out more on her blog and on Twitter @snbeach.

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