I’m less concerned about teaching kids how to use technology itself. They take to it like drinking water. Even very young ones. I’m sure you’ve seen toddlers navigate an iphone with almost no instruction. I’m more interested in getting students to build behaviors that allow them to make careful decisions about the technology they use. It’s not just net safety, which I do worry about, especially with younger children. For example, I just don’t feel comfortable taking pictures of kids in my class and putting them up on any photo-sharing site like flickr . On my class website parents need a password to view the gallery. They can view everything else such as the curriculum, my weekly letter, or any other kinds of things I wish to communicate to them. What is also important to teach kids is civility when responding to articles, especially these days where many do so under some anonymous pseudonym. The vitriol can be quite distasteful. Let’s face it, technology is here to stay, but we can learn to switch it off and use it in ways to create rather than simply consume.
Second graders still need to write with pencil and paper, but more and more, I’ve noticed many starting to come to school with early keyboarding skills. I don’t mean one finger typing, I mean many are using software at home out of interest and learning how to keyboard on their own. At our school keyboarding isn’t taught until third grade, so they’re definitely getting it elsewhere.
I’ve been thinking about a closed private blog for second graders where they can write a short story, book review, or post photos they have taken. Not because I want them to learn how to blog – they will have lots of time to learn how to do this. I want them to begin using their real names to make comments on others’ work and learn how to do so respectfully and with thought. The vitriol I mentioned can turn into what is called cyber-bullying, and it’s never too early to deal with that. They also need to learn how to limit their use and reliance on technology and see it for what it is – a tool. When Egypt turned off internet reception last week, people (who had the capacity to think) used older technologies and pulled out their old dial-up modems, and communicated through ham radio frequencies.
This month’s Ed. Leadership issue is titled “Teaching Screenagers” and focuses on the use of technology (both teachers’ use and student use). Learning with technology should go beyond basic skills and help them to acquire higher-order skills. According to one of the articles, Transforming Education with Technology (one of the free ones), we “in addition to addressing the digital divide, we must also address the pedagogical divide.”
There’s another great article about moving students online. It suggests that we model that behavior for them. There’s a great quote from the article: “Students should be able to find themselves online, associating their full names with their best work for a global audience to see.” It suggests four first steps for teachers.
- Become googleable yourself – it suggests starting a twitter account or a blog.
- Model connections – where appropriate, share with your students how you learn from others online
- Share student work – as the teacher of younger students, we should moderate their comments – with older students they should be taught how to do so responsibly
- Practice and Teach “Reputation Management” – What you put out there is FOREVER. Even if you delete it, it is most likely cached somewhere.
There are plenty of good articles in here like one about five lessons administrators should keep in mind as they implement new technology initiatives.
Another one, titled Making the Most of Your Cl@ss Website was interesting to me. This is the first year I’ve had one, and its main purpose has been to communicate to parents. According to the article that’s only level 3 (there are five). Level 4 should focus on the curriculum, but also have the student participate. Level 5 helps the student direct their own learning where the teacher places carefully constructed open-ended questions. At first I started to react that I didn’t have a website at that highest level, but the article said it was rare, it would probably require students to be older than the ones I teach, and hey, this is the first year I’ve had a class website – and blog. I’m still learning. There’s even a great article titled, how PowerPoint is Killing Education which discusses how slides can be effective, but not if we bore kids with headings and bullet points. That’s just an outline, not an effective lesson.
In the end though, as a short article states: “Good teaching trumps good tools.” Besides, I have no idea what we’ll be using in ten, fifteen, or twenty years.