The Struggle to Find Age Appropriate School Technology Projects

Over the past 12 years of teaching technology to K through 12 students I have learned that they can do amazing things with technology...

  • A second grade student that blogs.
  • A 9 year-old video game designer.
  • A high school freshman who writes and records his own songs.
  • A middle school student with her own webshow and over 5,000 followers.

This list could go on and on.

But the question that haunts me as I design new edtech projects is this, "Just because they can do it, should they do it?

I am sure that if enough time and effort was spent, we could have an eight year-old student do algebra. But why?

The same goes for teaching technology to our students -- do second graders really need to know how to blog or are we just showing off?

My concern is this; There is no doubt that the Internet is a two-sided sword -- being the greatest information source and also a dangerous place that  is not safe for our students. As technology leaders we must be vigilant in our weighing of the risk and reward values of any school technology project we develop.

Take for example the fifth-grade movie project in my school. In this projects the student write, act, direct, and film their own movie. In pre-production the student learn a lot about Internet safety and how by putting this video on YouTube their name and face will now be seen by anyone. We spend a lot of time on ideas like this so that the students understand how to safely put projects online. Guidelines that they use as they publish and post their own future home-made projects online.

Every year when we premiere the movie at the school the younger students want to immediately start working on their own movies, they don't understand that they have to get a little older before you can start making online movies. It is not that they are not capable, it is that they are not mature enough to deal with the online risks.

So the next time you start to develop a new tech lesson please keep in mind the balance of risk and reward with regards to the age of your students, try to make the projects with the lowest risk that offers the highest reward.

Here is the 5th grade movie from this past year...