The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Last week I hosted visiting principals from Independent Schools in Sydney and Melbourne. Our Middle School was also part of a school visit programme during a national conference held in Perth last week. A topic that is quite often raised by visitors pertains to how we handle our one-one device strategy.

When this question is posed it usually means how do we monitor and, if required, restrict certain types of usage.  I think it would be fair to say that the growth of one-one programmes is nothing new. It probably commenced in earnest during the mid 1990s and yet the same questions and issues appear to revolve around ICT in schools today. For all of the years that schools have been operating within the context of multi modal ICT, we still grapple with how much usage is too much.

A lot of parents, and I have no doubt many educators, still hold the view that ‘Prohibition’ is a concept that may work to control the growth of device over usage – in other words a total ban. Anyone familiar with history will no doubt know how well prohibition has worked in other areas of society.

As I was taking advantage of the long weekend, I reminded myself how important it is to ensure that cerebral activity is broken up by either exercise or some form of work involving physical activity. Furthermore, I made a decision to limit my online access. By the end of the weekend, I felt somewhat recharged and energised. Ironically, I had to break my long weekend device reduction to write this article.

With reference to getting the balance right, what is really important, is that families need to ensure that their sons find a balance between online activity and physical activity. Recently I was speaking to a dad who in his words dragged his son kicking and screaming for a bike ride. While the initial 10 minutes appeared far from welcomed by his son, the end result was a boy who loved the ride. This decision broke the cycle of sedentary activity; got everyone out of the house and as such, everyone's ICT devices were not the focus for the afternoon.

Why did this activity work? The answer is simple, it took a parent to model what they wanted; a change in environment from internal TV or device based to a physical outdoor activity. I witness this many times over each weekend when I see families bring their son to our playing fields for 30 minutes or so to run off some of their energy. On Sunday I found myself chatting to a number of Scotch families on our playing fields, in particular the dads, reliving the football match they had probably just watched on Fox or even better, reliving their own legendary football prowess from their by-gone years.

The Centre for Disease Control in the US also highlight why physical activity and getting outside is so important. Physical activity assists with:

  • Building and maintaining healthy bones and muscles
  • Reducing the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, in future years
  • Reducing feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being
  • Is associated with helping to improve students' academic performance, including, academic achievement and grades and academic behaviour, such as concentration and attentiveness in the classroom.

If we want our boys to achieve balance then we must show them how. Some of you may be aware of the song by Harry Chapin "Cats in the Cradle". If not, you may wish to listen to it some time. Essentially the song is about a young boy watching how his father lives his life and is exemplified by the lyrics:

"He learned to walk while I was away, and he was talking' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew, he'd say "I'm gonna be like you, Dad"

The message is that we must role model to our boys at school and at home. If we fail to do so, how will they accept the importance of balance in their life? This is why Scotch ensures sport is compulsory and that we provide a breadth of co-curricular offerings.

Recently, I have had several conversations with parents regarding their perception that their son has become addicted to gaming or simply addicted to social media and device usage. We cannot avoid the use of ICT, nor should we. This is the reality of the world, within which our boys now operate. What we have to do is to ensure that ICT and associated activities are simply seen as part of a balanced lifestyle.

As with most things in life, moderation is the key. A simple way to address over usage of ICT or social media is to set usage times with your sons and stick to what is agreed. In essence, it is all about having meaningful conversations with boys in order to shape their way of operating. Remember you are the parents and that sometimes there are uncomfortable discussions to be had, and difficult calls to be made. Boys need to be given ‘lines in the sand’.

We must be the role models of desired behaviour. If our boys never see us display the type of behaviour we value, then how else will they ever come to understand the importance of a balanced life style? Balance incorporates getting out and about and experiencing more than just a virtual representation of life on a TV or computer screen.

Speaking of the importance of our outdoor life and balance, congratulations to our residential community on hosting a simply wonderful ‘Ag Day’ last Wednesday. It was the first time it was held at the boarding facility and the first time it included the whole school. It was such a great example of why we love having a boarding presence at Scotch College. Seeing our Pre-Ks through to Year 12s dressed in their farming attire was very heart-warming and sent an important message about celebrating the uniqueness of our community. Well done to everyone for organising such a great event. If you did not get to see the original Ag Day promotional video, I suggest you click here and enjoy the vision of the many places our young men come from to attend Scotch as boarders.

Congratulations must go to all students and staff who participated in the 50 Mile Walk and to those who provided support for the event to take place. A special thank you to Mrs Evans for her long standing support of this event at our school.  Events such as this are things that boys remember many years after school.

Have a great fortnight.