CONVERLATION™, a New Jersey-based company, introduced a program that aims to reduce problems in school caused by students’ tech use outside of school. The program, designed for grades 5-8, is easily implemented in any classroom and it works by educating students and fostering real conversations about how we use our devices.
The brainchild of co-founders John Schwind and Kathy Van Benthuysen, Converlation highlights the importance of personal interactions and pulls back the curtain on the technology on which we’ve all become reliant, and in some ways dependent. Schwind, a career entrepreneur, and Van Benthyusen, a lifelong career educator, realized that technology usage outside of schools was the leading cause of problems for students, teachers, the administration and school boards on campus.
“While technology provides unparalleled access to a world of information, it also has side effects that hinder our young people’s ability to be social and connected with one another and with their families,” explained Van Benthuysen. “The devices are not going anywhere, so educators need effective tools to ensure a decrease in distractions and an increase in student engagement with learning and in life.”
Listening to educator input and witnessing that most technology avoidance techniques have been proven unsuccessful, Converlation was designed to meet kids where they are. Converlation utilizes thoughtfully selected, engaging and meaningful videos, coupled with guided discussion starters, and critical peer connections. Converlation does not demonize technology but changes the mindset of kids regarding their tech use outside of school and raises their level of awareness of how it personally affects each of them. It exposes them to the side effects of social media, gaming, and endless videos and encourages them to draw their own conclusions and create plans to move forward.
Converlation is designed to empower five distinct and equally critical audiences: children, parents, teachers, administrators, and school boards. Children are welcomed into open dialogues that highlight potential unintended outcomes of tech use. When children can have informed conversations with one another, they are able to see how they are commodities to the tech arena, and they can begin to reshape their behavior and usage.
There is also a component of Converlation that engages parents because overuse of technology outside of school is a shared problem for both parents and schools. Parental support is important for kids in order to have deep and rich conversations about technology and for them to avoid the built-in addictive and manipulative properties of tech.
Teachers have been struggling more than ever in recent years to find a classroom management strategy that works for students whose attention spans and focus have been reduced by overuse of technology. Teachers love that the training to implement Converlation is a 5-minute video, and the payoff is a kinder and more productive classroom experience for all.
Administrators who are wrestling with behavioral issues caused by tech use outside of school will find relief as Converlation allows students, teachers, and parents to relate to each other via knowledge and conversation.
School boards are challenged to address and solve a myriad of issues. Converlation allows them to take action on tech side effects that impact all stakeholders, while not placing an undue burden on teachers.
Schools, both public and private, have successfully piloted the program and have experienced improvements in academic performance, school climate, social behavior, and teaching practices as well as a decline in emotional stress and behavioral problems. School decision makers should consider implementing Converlation if they are experiencing any of the following on their campuses:
➢ Increased social, emotional, and behavioral issues
➢ Kids less engaged than they used to be
➢ Effects of tech use interfering with teaching
➢ Declining test scores
➢ Increased anxiety and depression
Converlation™ is the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and feelings that build and strengthen relationships. The program does not demonize technology, but helps students get back to making real connections and having conversations. School decision makers seeking more information can visit Converlation.com.
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