Digital Native my …….!!#@%

If you want to get some ‘tech minded’ teachers stirred up… all you have to do is talk about today’s students being digital natives!

The term, ‘Digital Native’ was invented in 2001, (wikipedia) and was used to describe a generation of people who have grown up with technology and are comfortable in that environment.  In educational circles it’s often used at conferences by speakers trying to convince an audience to use elearning and web 2.0 tools in the way they teach.

Last night I had another great chat about the idea with some teachers on Twitter.  Here’s the argument:

 – Today’s students aren’t really digital natives cause most who don’t know about html and rss.  If you challenge them with something that’s digital and time consuming they run a mile. 

I replied with the possibility that this could be a developmental problem, not a generational one – they’re just being teenagers and naturally averse to any form of hard work.  I don’t think the phrase ever tried to describe D.N.s as experts with technology, just familiar with it but is there any truth in it – sure.  How many teenagers and children have to show their parents and grandparents how to set the DVD recorder?  How ever you roll, I think a lot of educators are realising that generations can’t be put completely into boxes.  There will always be exceptions but the basic tenant can’t be ignored.

The phrase I heard at this year’s ulearn10 conference was ‘Digital Learners’.  I like this concept because it puts the learner at the center and the focus of the idea back onto the pedagogy – how will we teach this generation differently to the last?  Here’s my brief and not exhaustive list of implications of D.Ls in our schools;

1.  Students immersed in a digital world shouldn’t have to leave it behind when they enter our classrooms (described as, ‘powering down’)

2.  Digital tools can lead to motivated and engaged learners who otherwise would be unfocused and disruptive.

3.  Technology allows student to develop their creativity and collaborative skills for a digital world that demands these dispositions.

Don’t you think we are morally bound and professionally inept if we don’t provide opportunities for these digital learners?

(Photo by Creative Commons – posted by  mharrsch – flickr.com)

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Why won’t you kids just reflect?

Following along from my post (Not ‘Lord of the Flies’ in my class) on teaching kids how to behave in our new digital world is a new initiative in my class.  We have started a Twitter account!  @Room8salford

I’ve wanted to keep driving my aim of developing the students into reflective learners. I thought I might be able to encourage this some more by using Twitter as a vehicle – they have turns on a roster system to post a small ‘what I’m doing and what I think of that’ tweet. Along the way we would learn about being responsible online citizens and put our preaching about digital etiquette (Yes! I know how to spell that now…) into practise.

Here’s a snapshot of our first two days. We have two followers, apart from me, but that’s not the aim. All the little strategies that Teacher’s College used on me have worked… which, incidentally I resented but that is another post. Maybe all my little strategies will work on them?

Are the tweets staggeringly reflective?  Not many but it’s early days.
Here are some steps I’ve taken to set it up…

1.  I have a roster on the wall behind our imac with a big red arrow next to the name of the next tweeter.  They get 20 points for their team if they tweet without me prompting them (real life incentive, people.  That is NOT a bribe…haha)

2.  We brainstormed some prompting thoughts and questions to help us work out what to tweet.  ‘What have I just learnt and how?’ or ‘What am I doing and how do I feel about that?’ for example.
3.  I’ve made our tweets private for now.  This is mostly because I want to protect the class from ‘randoms’ mentioning us in a bad way – I always think it best to tread carefully and become more liberal as time goes on – still thinking that one through to be honest…what do you think?
4.  I have a ‘follow us’ badge on our class blog for any parents who want to.  One has!  Yes.
5.  I’m going to give someone a job in class to be the tweet ‘cheer leader’ – they’ll get paid as part of our class economy for our market days.

Is there anyone else who is doing this.  I’ve had a hunt and haven’t seen any evidence.  Surely I’m not the first!  If it helps us to become more reflective – and share some snapshots of our days – then that’s awesome (or ‘trick’, my hip word for the week).

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Samsung Showcase

There are some pretty cool concept technologies here.  My observations

1.  It’s all about the touch screen – the clam shell, case in point.  I heard at the ulearn conference a speaker comment that the ipad is the first new technology in a long time to actually revolutionise personal computing – it’ll be the death knell of the keyboard and mouse.

2.  Why do we need curvy screens?  Because we can!  Love it…

3.  The see through screen at the end reminds me of a vid I saw a few months ago.  A Concept is closer to a prototype. – Puts this fact in context – ‘Half of all the knowledge that exists wasn’t known 10 years ago.’  Scary – that was said in 2005.  Even scarier – ‘The knowledge keeps doubling every 5 years!’

Not ‘Lord of Flies’ in my class!

One of the biggest debates around technology and education is the role that social media and learning could or should interact.  Just bring up the word, ‘facebook’ around teachers and the heckles go up for so many.

It’s a shame that many of us can’t see past the dangers and traps of social media.  I know of at least 12 students in my class of 10 and 11 year olds who have Facebook accounts and that list will grow as the years go by.  It’s here.  Kids and teenagers are using and it (a lot!) and hiding in the corner with a paper bag over our heads is not, I think, the answer.

Have you read ‘Lord of the Flies?‘ or seen the movie?  It’s a story of a group of young castaways fending for themselves and going through a period of anarchy, violence and regret.   It’s also a reality that I think we are throwing on our students if we don’t go with them to the Social Media island as well.  Don’t we have the experience and social skills to point out the dangers and spot the opportunities?

When so many young people are engaged in this world it’s incredibly important that adults are aware and engaged too.  You could even say that we have a moral obligation to.  I think we should be investing in understanding and teaching our students how to get the most out of communities like Facebook and Twitter.  Just like any environment there are guidelines that can keep us safe and get the most out of these sites and there are lots of resources out there for us to use – like this from Brainpop.

My next step is to start a twitter page for the class which, I’m hoping, will enhance their reflective skills – but that’s another post.  We’ll see.
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Habits of Mind Heros

One of my favourite breakouts at this years Ulearn conference was one taken by Karen Boyes.  She presented on how to embed the Habits of Mind into the life of a classroom and school.  I’m a HUGE fan of the Habits – they compliment the Key Competencies so well.

One of my goals this term is to consolidate and deepen my classes understanding of the Habits.  I’ve led some activities that taught them explicitly and we often refer to them during the day.  We have a ‘Superkid’ who gets to sit on the sofa chair and watches for a student to be the next Superkid – someone who displays one of the habits, for example.  These little moments help us focus on what I think is one of the most important parts of being successful.

This term we are creating our own ‘Habits Heros.’  The class had to choose a Habit in pairs and design a super hero – using The Hero Factory.   They then had to create a comic life poster that explained what their hero wears and how that relates to their habit.  Here’s an example from Gabby and Ella.

 The habit they chose was ‘Remaining open to continuous learning’ – interesting!   I learnt a lot about the students from their choice but the greatest part of this project (apart from looking so cool around our room) is the investigating that had to happen for the groups to create their hero.  Most students had to explore their habit some more to be able to apply their understanding in a hero context.  ‘Why does your hero’s cape help them fly into humour?’  ‘What does their sword do to help others manage their impulsivity?’
Embedding the habits into our class room culture?  Priceless.

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Teacher expert vs teacher learner.

When I talk to people involved in education, from technitians to principals and software developers I hear a similar story about the state of tech integration in schools.  They all say the same thing – there is a HUGE chasm between the schools that are embracing the digital movement and those that aren’t.

I think the chasm is also happening within schools as well as between them.  Some teachers are providing their classes with fantastic opportunities to explore and create with digital tools while others have technology that’s gathering dust – and they’re concerned.

There are a lot of reasons why this is happening.  One of the main reasons is that many of us are not ready to make the transition from being the ‘teacher expert’ to the ‘teacher learner’.  So what is the difference?  Here’s my take.

This transition isn’t easy.  It means that I often find myself in situations where I’m asking my students for help.  I’ll often admit that I don’t know what to do – but let’s try and work it out together!

I think that it’s this approach, the teacher as a learner attitude, that encourages us to adopt new technologies in our classrooms and schools.  I have quite a lot of experience, now, with blogs and 3rd party applications.  I know very little, however, about ipod touches and how to make apps for them but I’m really keen to get some for our class!

My challenge to all of us is to risk being the student in the eyes of your class.   What kinds of new technology have you been a learner with this year?

Are we ready to take off our expert hat?
(Image posted under C.C.  from Al Hikes AZ, Cartoon – http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/2010/10/12/)