If I Could Disrupt TechCrunch (thoughts on parenting and education)

by Moms With Apps on September 19, 2011

I recently viewed the startup presentations from TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. I focused on the pitches dealing with solutions for education, because that subject is most critical to me as a parent. The session left me curious. What would happen if I had the chance to hop on stage…what message would I want to convey?

The Reality of Our Neighborhood School

“I’m the stay-at-home mom of two girls who attend our local public schools in Redwood City, California. We experience first-hand the impact of drastic budget cuts in the classroom. Class sizes are larger, resources seem non-existent, children are easily distracted, and teachers are spending more time managing behavior than actually teaching.

If children who enter the public school classroom were ready to focus, listen and learn – I don’t think the lean teacher/student ratio of the educational crisis at hand would be so devastating.

Parenting Trends I’m Noticing

I believe that part of the solution for education starts with responsible parenting. I believe that parents are becoming more distracted from parenting because of habits we’re forming around mobile technology.

Have you noticed how many in-person conversations are interrupted by incoming calls from a cell phone? Although it can be annoying, unfortunately we’re all growing used to it. But what if you are a child in the formative years, yearning for attention as you try to understand the world around you? What if your view of the world is that Mommy and Daddy’s phones and computers are more important than you?

Human nature would lead you (the child) to fight against it and assert your importance.  As I observe more children acting out to seek attention, and more parents passing off their smartphones to avoid meltdowns, I get concerned.

I don’t think we ever imagined how popular smartphones and iPads would be with young kids. Will families effectively balance this brave new world of educational potential with healthy habits? Are parents still willing to do the “hard work” that is so critical during the early years – or will they be tempted to outsource with the help of a handy device?

Getting on Track by Putting Family First

I would love to see families get over the techno-honeymoon, set boundaries on the gizmos, and free up to focus on the joyful and enriching possibilities for family life.

If we build habits that value teachable moments most often accomplished via eye contact and conversation, we can disrupt the chain reaction of distraction. If we focus on principles of patience, perseverance, and politeness as we send our kids to school every day, we increase our teachers’ chances of getting a “good” class.

Oh how wonderful it would be for teachers to teach, rather than spend creative juices on a classroom discipline policy.

So What’s The Pitch?

For the last two years I focused on supporting independent developers in the apps for kids marketplace. I believe we are in the middle of a Great Experiment – one that involves parents, teachers and developers working together to investigate and validate the educational potential of mobile devices.

I’m advocating a philosophy based on the thoughtful use of technology. I’d like to encourage an app store for children that puts families first – with a strong editorial backbone that explores the balance between inventions and traditions. I want to see more families thriving – so when my kids get to college – they’ll be inspired by peers who solve more problems than they create.

But I’ve run out of time for this particular 3-minute-gig. For more details about a healthy future for apps & kids, we’ll need to catch up over a cappuccino…and I promise to switch off my phone.”

Lorraine Akemann | Editor | Moms With Apps

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