Daniel Lemire's blog

, 2 min read

Starting high school in 2016

My oldest boy started high school this year. He goes to an accessible private school nearby. We went to a parent’s meeting last night.

  • Personal electronics is banned from the school. So no smartphone. No portable game console. Last year, the principal hinted that the ban was unenforceable. This year we got a message asking for our help in enforcing the ban.

This seems awfully hypocritical. All the parents show up to school with smartphones in their hands. They check their emails every five minutes. Some don’t even have the decency to turn this phones off, so you get ringing in the middle of a talk.

The school is organizing a symposium on “the digital” where actual university professors are going to talk about technology and its impact. I wonder whether they will talk about the fact that half the parents are smartphone addicts? Probably not. If there is a problem, it must be with the kids.

  • The French teacher (it is a French school) encourages the use of the dictionary. It seems like a big deal to him. A parent asked whether it was ok if the kid used a tablet to look up words. The teacher said it was… he admitted to using a tablet himself (at home)… but he added that he wanted to promote the feel of paper.

I don’t know about you but I simply never look up anything in a paper dictionary these days. It is hypocritical to ask teenagers to do so. None of them will ever use a paper dictionary in the real world.

He says he wants to promote reading. But, of course, no ebook is in sight. What is meant by “reading” is “read an actual paper book”.

Newsflash: we have never written and read more than we do today… but very little of it is on paper.

  • Though some teachers hint at some discomfort, all the information (grades, assignments) end up on the school’s web portal. Teachers can send assignments by the portal and students can reply back with their completed assignments.

One of the middle-aged parents, no doubt someone working for a large organization, asked whether her 12-year-old would get training in the use of the web portal. The teacher routed around the question until he ended up telling the parent that “yes, we make sure students can use the portal”. The uncomfortable truth is that kids don’t need training to use a web portal in 2016, and only a minority of middle-aged folks do.

Summary. Though my son’s school is probably ahead of most… it is still presenting a backward picture of the world. It is a place where smartphones are still in the future. It is a place where you use paper dictionaries.