Back to school shopping is a right of passage-- the students' way of gearing up for the year to come. But the necessities are turning from traditional to high-tech.
"Children are growing up in a world that is highly dependent on technology," says Ali Marchildren of Burlington.
Ben is heading into sixth-grade in Burlington this year, which means he gets a laptop to use in class. Schools call these one-to-one programs, and they are growing exponentially in Vermont. Of the 84,000 students in Vermont, 6,000 students had access to these tablets last year. And this year that number is closer to 20,000.
Some districts budget for these computers, others rely on groups like the Tarrant Foundation that grant the money to buy the tools and offer professional development for teachers.
"In the past they've held the information and their job is to share it effectively. What this really does is say in some cases it's not the information that's the commodity, it's still learning that's the commodity," says Lauren Curry with the Tarrant Foundation.
Curry says students are engaged with technology from the moment they wake up, and offering this kind of learning keeps them engaged in the classroom, too. So far the Tarrant Foundation has helped 12 schools.
"Technology is one of those things that helps us meet students where they are and based on who they are and how they choose to interact with the world," says Curry.
But before students can learn from the internet they have to learn about it.
"They really have changed the rules of the game," says Donna McAllister with the Department of Education.
Donna McAllister coordinates with health educators across the state. She says internet access has raised the bar in terms of access to health education resources.
"You get up-to-date information by accessing the Internet. Whereas textbooks frequently get outdated before they're printed let alone make it to the classrooms," she says.
In 2009 the state mandated comprehensive health education known as ACT ONE. It's focused on healthy relationships and identifying trusted adults. Now that the internet is at the student's fingertips, these conversations have become even more important.
"It's very hard. Kids are growing up much faster. They're growing up to a point because they're being exposed to things earlier, but that doesn't mean developmentally they can handle that exposure," McAllister says.
With exposure comes curiosity. Schools are giving them these tools and putting in safeguards but that's not enough. We've seen cases of indecent picture sharing at some schools and online harassment at others. Now teachers and parents have to educate students about these dangers and their consequences, while letting them practice in safe settings.
"If you don't teach them the benefit of the tablet and the hazards of the tablet and being online that will happen," says Lynda Reid of Burlington.
The rules around how kids use these tablets are known as safe and responsible use policies, and every school's is a bit different, but parents also play a big part in teaching kids about the dangers of sharing pictures and information online.
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