Staying Behind to Get Ahead

Eight years ago, I assigned a video project to my students.  They had to create, design, direct, film and edit propaganda commercials.  Today, this is a fairly commonplace assignment and we often require students to create videos.  Eight years ago though, movie-editing software was just coming out into the mainstream, and frankly, I did not know how to use it.  But my students did, and as their teacher, I saw its value.

I was their English teacher.  I gave them the tools and the skills to create and develop the commercials.  I also grouped them so that there was at least one person with experience editing videos.  They had the assignment, the skills, the tools and the expertise.  And they designed some phenomenal commercials.  I am still not very adept at this, and that’s okay.  As an educator, it is my job to facilitate learning and recognize the strengths of my students.

Last week, Jeff wrote, “Give up the dream of ever ‘catching up’ it ain’t gonna happen. Sit back, relax and smile. You will forever be behind.”  As educators, I think it is essential that we recognize this and give up the idea that we will ever know everything.  As Jeff said, information is growing exponentially, and if we are ever to learn, we have to experiment.

Too often, we don’t experiment in the classroom for one of two reasons:  1) we don’t know enough about it and believe we need to be the experts in order to teach it to students step by step, or 2) we fear not knowing enough and being unable to answer student questions.  If we operate from either of these beliefs, we will forever fall further and further behind, hence disconnecting our classrooms even more from the digital age and our students’ lives.

It is exhilarating to be given a project and be given the freedom to think it through and create the answer.  In Bloom’s New Taxonomy, creating is the highest order of thought.  Hence, we can give our students tasks that we have yet to master and then learn along with them.  I find that the less step by step we give them, the more motivated they get, creating work that far exceeds any expectation we could have placed on them.  And as teachers learning along with students, we model what real life is, a constant process of learning, trial and error.

Siemens writes that “technology is altering (rewiring) our brains.”  The following link talks about this new iGeneration and states that these kids “don’t remember a time without the constant connectivity to the world that these technologies bring.”

Interestingly, when googling the topic of rewired or tech-savvy kids, there were more links reporting on the damages of social media, the Internet and such.  Here is one example:  However, even in this article, he does address the fact that perhaps this re-wiring is a good thing, making us more adaptable as learners.

Whichever side of the debate you stand, one thing is certain.  Our children are more tech-savvy than most adults.  Therefore, we will be forever behind unless we embrace their knowledge and learn along with them.

2 Replies to “Staying Behind to Get Ahead”

  1. Regarding what you about us not experimenting because “1) we don’t know enough about it and believe we need to be the experts in order to teach it to students step by step, or 2) we fear not knowing enough and being unable to answer student questions,” I think the first concern is the one that I encounter more often, except with a twist: I don’t experiment much because my own inexperience means that it’s hard for me to scaffold the process such that the students can complete the project in a reasonable amount of time and to a high level of quality. It’s also difficult to anticipate problems that might crop up along the way so that the students can stick to a timeline. This is less of an issue when you’re just messing around with technology yourself, but in the constraints of the deadline-oriented school system it is a bit more of a concern.

    Despite my excuses above, I have tried to experiment in my classes. I did video projects with my 9th graders last quarter, with varying results (due, I think, to a lack of video-editing skill – which a survey of my kids beforehand could have ameliorated). I wanted my 10th graders to do Prezi timelines, but the Internet in Kuwait is slow enough to make the viability of that tool a concern (based on my own experience using the tool). Using forums and blog posts is an area I’d like to go, but I have to figure out how to incorporate that with my current homework model, which is more oriented around their paper notebooks (which I think will continue in their prominence until the advent of a 1:1 laptop program).

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