Digital Infancy

Happy, Fragile, Infant

This is not an entirely accurate statement, but in a lot of ways it is true too. Let me explain what I mean by this statement. Let me tell you a story to build context for this week.

In my school I am one of the technology leaders due to the fact that I have a classroom set of Ipads and Google Chromebooks , and use Google Classroom in my 8th grade social studies classes. I have had the Ipads for three years now and received the Chromebooks back in early August after we returned to school. I had played around with Google Classroom a bit at the end of last school year when it first came out, yet had issues because the Ipads really don’t work well with the Chrome operating system. When the Chromebooks arrived I became very excited to finally have a tool that would make it easier for my students to use Google Classroom and for me to get out of the mid-20th century.

At first, learning Google classroom and the Google suite of tools for myself was a lesson in patience, redos, and mistakes as I tried to learn what I had in possession and how to teach it to my students. It was clumsy, misguided, and really not much better than how I had normally would have done it sans technology. After reading many articles, pins and watching a ton of Youtube videos on how to use Google tools and classroom. As the year progressed I became more comfortable using Google and even helped several of our 6th grade teachers get Chromebooks for their classes as well. We all began to self-teach ourselves how to use this and as one of us learned something useful we passed it on to the others. As our knowledge grew so did how we approached using this technology in the classroom and came to the understanding that it isn’t the technology that is important, but that I must be change the way I approach teaching with technology.

Fast forward to last week.

File:Hangouts Icon.pngOne day last week when my students were working on their 20 Percent project one student engaged me in a conversation about school and how it really would be better if kids didn’t hate it so much. This lead us to a class discussion on the value of school and two TED talk videos, Why Kids Hate School, by Nikhil Goyal,and Schools That Work for Kids, by Eric Sheninger. After these videos and discussions several of my students made comments about how they would love to talk to them. So, as any good teacher would do, I reached out to both speakers to see if they would talk with my students. The next morning I had a return email from Eric stating that he would be happy to have a Google Hangout (GHO) and talk with them.

All week my students worked on questions for Mr. Sheninger and awaited our GHO where the students could do something that is restricted in our district - streaming video. The students did a great job with the GHO with Mr. Sheninger asking very direct and well thought out questions, listening to his responses, taking notes, and even filming parts of the conversation and posting it to social media. When the GHO was over the students were very excited and looking forward to being advocates of their own education and quickly spread this information to their friends in other classes.

Digital Infancy

The reason I say that this was a week of digital infancy was for one simple reason - I learned how much I don’t know about what I thought I knew well. This assignment, for lack of a better word, talking and learning more about how a school could be really opened my eyes to the plethora of apps, add-ons, and tutorials my students and I became exposed to.

In order for us as teachers to be able to help facilitate the learning our students need we need to get ourselves into the realm that our students live in - the digital realm. Watching my students conduct a Google Hangout with Eric and then use their own devices to record and then post it to social media was an eye-opening experience for me. I am fairly tech savvy and know the students have these capabilities, as do we as well, but they do it so much more naturally than we do. The question that jumps into my head wasn’t we need more technology, but how can I use this to make my students even better?

This enlightened me to the fact that the way I approach teaching will need to change. I am already an outlier in my district in the fact that I think of my students on  relational level and not just someone I give my knowledge to, but the idea that I need to transform my teaching practices even more to really get to these students and use technology to my advantage instead of it being a cool toy or $250 pencil. How am I going to accomplish this in a district like mine is now my objective.

In the words of one of my most favorite literary characters, Sherlock Holmes, the game is afoot. It is now time to grow up (digitally that is) and become the leader my students deserve.

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