Monday, February 18, 2013

A Thing or Two to Teach Our Kids About Technology

I'm fortunate to have colleagues from around the district feeding me great articles when they find them.  This article, forwarded to me by Butler teacher, Mollie Heilberger, points to a critical point of conversation.  Thanks, Mollie, for bringing this to my attention.

A recent article from the New Tech Network blog serves as a reminder to us that just because a student is born in an era where technology is omni-present, that doesn't necessarily mean that they are innately knowledgeable about how to use that technology productively for academic or professional pursuits.

Digital Native Does Not Mean Digital Literate

The blog post talks about a false assumption that we are all increasingly at risk of making about our students.  The assumption asserts that simply because our youth have grown up in an era where the Internet, computer access, Google, and Facebook are readily accessible, our kids innately know how to utilize the tools for meaningful academic work.

It is no wonder that we make this assumption.  For many of us, our lack of comfort with technology, mixed with the popularity of that same technology with most young people (I dare you to find one who doesn't regularly use a smart phone, or at least know how a smart phone works) leads us to believe that young people somehow just "get it" when it comes to technology.  Mix that with a little bit of naive, misguided confidence on behalf of many young people in masterfully using various forms of technology (I dare you to find a classroom of kids that doesn't have a least one "expert" technologist on software he/she has never used before in his/her life), and it's easy to understand why we tend to trust that somewhere along our genetic lineage a dominant technology trait was formed and turned on with the invent of Google.

This is NOT to say that kids don't have some mad skills when it comes to the use of technology.  Some of them do -- many do. More importantly, they have never known the fear of "breaking it," which hinders/paralyzes so many adults when it comes to technology use.  It simply means that we cannot assume that they all have the same comfort with technology, or that they all can use technology for the deeper side of research that they need to engage in to meaningfully learn.

There are still many valued lessons that come with age, wisdom, and experience that teachers bring to the academic experience.  These skills and lessons transcend medium -- no technology comfort or expertise required to put these skills to work.  That is at the core of what we must offer our students as we work with them.  It is the guidance that they need as they employ the digital tools that are at their fingertips to do the hard work of learning.  

And it is in that gap between our discomfort with technology and their lack of life and academic experience that students and teachers can meaningfully connect to teach and learn from each other.  This is where teaching Essential Skills, such as digital citizenship and research come into play.  They may not be measured on standardized tests, but they are the skills that will ultimately help students to fail/succeed in lifelong pursuits.

So, the next time you integrate some element of technology into your classroom practice, don't be afraid to spend some time teaching the kids a thing or two about how to use the technology to become more academically, professionally, and personally productive with the tools.