I teach STEM. My lab has a lot of activity. I am often pulled in different directions putting out fires and sometimes adding some gasoline (metaphorically) to some other pretty amazing fires that get burning. I will admit that there are times where I could not possibly tell at the end of the period who was productive and who was not. If someone wanted to “mail one in” there is a good chance I would not be able to catch them. I am very lucky though, there is really good buy in for what we do in my classroom. The kids love it, the parents love it and I know that there are many teachers who would love to be in my shoes teaching such a cool and engaging subject.
Why am I telling you this? I am sure that many teachers cringe at the idea of setting students free to use their devices, open channels of social media to all of their friends. Those open channels however can be used not only for friendship driven connections but for interest driven connections as well. How can we steer our students to the interest driven connections? KEEP THE INTEREST HIGH!
Technology has the power to ignite interest in our students and take them to places we never dreamt of going. Here are some great ways to spice up a math class using twitter. When I taught third grade we used twitter to tweet out responses to review questions. It wasn’t exactly revolutionary but it engaged the students in an otherwise monotonous activity. We used tagboard to view other groups answers as they were completing them. The class was engaged in an interesting activity and got real time peer to peer feedback on how well they understood the content they were to be tested on the next day. I am still growing my tech integration skills.
What I also find interesting is the notion that the kids have all the tools they need to manage and navigate the digital world. This is certainly not the case. I once taught a Web Design course and a parent was distressed about their child’s low mark. They were confused by the fact that this particular student spent forever on the computer and they felt that he should be a wiz with HTML. My response was that I spend a great deal of time driving my car and that doesn’t necessarily mean that I know how it works. This is another reason that I truly believe that we need to open up the classroom all kinds of technology so that we can guide the experience for our students. There is no doubt that many of my students no a great deal more about certain aspects of technology but not all. I know I can learn from them but they certainly learn from me as well.
I was reading my Twitter feed this morning and found this little gem relating to the notion of digital natives (people who grew up with technology) vs. digital immigrants (those who did not). Jenn Stewart-Mitchell, the author of the blog post Connecting is Good, Yet Why Can’t I Help But Worry? made a strong point that digital citizenship is not something that digital natives necessarily understand. If we don’t teach this in our classes, where will they learn it? We need to help them avoid pitfalls that are so obvious to the older generation and not to them. I don’t believe the idea that people born after a certain date automatically know about technology and how it works whereas people born before that date are oblivious. This is the perspective of the video posted below.
We live in a technologically driven world. Our classrooms need to reflect that. Inviting new technologies, even ones that could be used for friendship driven interactions (but are also great for interest driven connections) is important. Teaching our kids how to effectively and appropriately use technology is one of our greatest responsibilities and we make experience the added benefit of learning a thing or two from our students as well.