How many of us check Facebook, Twitter, email, the surf the internet when we get bored? I know I've done ALL of those during PD, especially when I didn't see the relevance to my life or practice. And yet I've had students get multiple day suspensions for doing exactly the same things. Why? Because the rules are different for students than they are for us.
Now maybe you're more professional than I am and have never done it. And maybe I'm of the younger generation (I'm 29) that is closer to our students than many of my colleagues, so my technology use is closer to a typical student than a typical teacher. I've had a computer since I was two years old, and started using the internet in 7th grade. If I want to know something, I google it. If I want to read a new book, I buy it on Kindle.
I have three devices going right now - MacBook Pro, where I'm watching the BBC coverage of Olympic gymnastics (thank you Expat Surfer! I hate NBC's coverage sooooo much) and typing this entry. On my iPad next to me, I've got Twitter open, and have music on pause between events. Then there's my iPhone, which is charging between text messages. I nearly always have all three devices with me, so that I'm never without access to email, Twitter, Google docs, my music library, or my camera and photos.
If you asked me to go back to college and not use any of that, and not be able to Google when I wanted to know a basic fact, I would feel cut off and blind. Hell, I need music to be productive during my work time. If it's too quiet, I get distracted easily.
Does that mean I'm a failure as a learner? Does that mean that I am dependent on technology? Does that mean I'm distracted all the time from the "actual" work?
No. It means that in my cultural context, I see technology as integral to my life. The devices I have give me the ability to learn anything I want to know. On the road trip I just finished, we had regular "Why don't you Google that?" moments. We used Maps on the iPad and Android instead of my old Garmin GPS. We played hours of music from our combined devices. I edited videos in Camtasia in the car, read on my Kindle, and multi-tasked between devices, all while documenting the trip so Andrew could see the West Coast and having bonding time with my road trip buddy.
Technology is simply the language I speak, and the tools I need to navigate the world around me. I could live without technology, but I just don't see the point.
Our students have never lived in a world pre-internet, nor do they remember a time before there were smartphones. They feel that they need technology as much as food and air.
Why would we ask them to stop using the tools that define them and that will give them the opportunity to make the learning more relevant to their lives? Our job is to educate them, but also to engage them where they are but inspire them to be better than they are.
I am not saying that you need to go paperless and try every new tool out there. In fact, I have decided to allow student preference to guide our technology use this year more than my preference will. I believe that if students are allowed to use the tools they love and maybe even teach me something about them, they will engage in learning more fully and with greater passion. And I will attempt to model that using technology is not always easy, but can make the results far more spectacular if used appropriately.
Now, I understand that many schools lack the technology to make it as integrated to their classrooms as they would like. However, there is a test that Ramsay Musallam uses at the beginning of the year that I'm going to steal. I will ask them how many check Facebook, Twitter or other social media every day. If they can do that, they can watch videos or complete basic assignments using the internet. I have very few students who have ever said no to that question. And for those students, I've never had one who didn't have a TV and DVD player. Maybe I will at some point. And if I do, I will make sure that student has equitable access. Period. Or I'll change my expectations.
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