When I was 16 we got a computer for Christmas. I remember my brother and I excitedly opening all of the boxes and spending half the morning setting it up. About a week later, my Dad called and set up the Internet. It was dial-up, but we didn’t care, because, well, what else was there? We could only be online at certain times, because of course, it tied up the phone. Also, when I went to download Green Day’s “When I Come Around,” it took more than two hours–actually, it took longer, because my Mom picked up the phone to try and dial out while I was in the middle of it.
I’m turning 33 in December, and we’ve come a long way in what technology can do for us. I listened to “When I Come Around” last week, in my, car, on Spotify. It’s listed under “90s Classics.” Sheesh.
As a human, I feel that I’m pretty technologically savvy. I started this blog, didn’t I? However, I recently read an article by Marc Prensky called Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants. I’m a teacher, and my students today are indeed digital natives. They’ve grown up with technology their whole lives. Prensky’s concern is that students are attending school and being taught by a large body of people who aren’t as technologically savvy as they are. This is not only just in using it, but in the way WE THINK.We are digital immigrants. Sure, I adopted technology at age 16, and I’ve been along for the ride, but my high school experience was vastly different from the one that they’re having. I took notes on lined paper, and I called my friends on the phone, and had to ask “Hi, is Susie there, please?”
I have to be careful not to teach today’s kids the way I was taught, because they’re DIFFERENT. Technology is like a language, and I learned it at 16. Therefore, I always find myself reverting to my mother tongue, which is…well, not technology. There’s a video about 21st Century Learners that says that most of the students that I’m teaching today will have jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. That means that Sally or Jimmy in my Grade 10 English class are going to go on to be _______________. How do I prepare them for that?
The video also says that today’s teenager is only allowed to digitally create things 14% of the time. This is insane. We are living in one of the most exciting ages of development and information. I can check the weather, news, watch a cat video, and send a picture of my new flower garden to my mother, all at the same time, and in seconds. Isn’t that exciting? My students are doing this same thing, outside of school. Then, they arrive at school, and we knock them back 30 years. We tell them to turn off the devices, get out the lined paper, and pay attention. No wonder they’re bored. Some would argue that “boredom is good for kids. It teaches them patience.”
No, it doesn’t. It teaches them to resent what they’re doing. When I was a kid, we used to have to go to the bank with my parents. They had to stand in line on Fridays to cash their paycheques. The line was endless, but everyone had to do it. I was always so bored. My brother and I used to count the tiles on the floor. Did these long experiences at the bank make me start to love the bank? Of course not. Every time we had to go to the bank, we would groan. I DON’T want kids doing that when they think about school.
So what can I, as a teacher, do about this? I don’t want to be like the bank. I want to be on the same page with students when it comes to technology and where they are at. I want them to digitally create things. I want them to be involved. I have to always be aware that their experience should not mirror my experience. I finished high school in 2001. I need them to have a 2016 experience. E-learning, while not at the forefront of our system yet, is the future, and I don’t want to be the last to know all about it.
—As a side note, Prensky mentions in his article that there are 101 countries in the world. There are actually 197. I can name them all. I can’t however, name all of the Pokemon.