For the past two years, my students and I have been purposely learning how to move about in this world of technology to write, learn, and grow. We learn together, and we blog together. It has been, and still is, a priceless experience for all of us. I have learned much about teaching, guiding, and this world, their world, of technology.
What I discovered is that today’s students do not need us to teach them how, they need us more to show them what is important and why. Most students already know how to take the world they have at their fingertips and find, within seconds, how to do pretty much anything.
The tech world is filled with endless learning opportunities, as well as countless dangers. And if in case you didn’t already know it, our students are already living in it, manipulating it, and learning from it. We can remain stuck in trying to teach the latest program or app, in a desperate attempt to integrate tech, or we can embrace its continuous change, and guide our students into using technology as a rich and ever-changing learning environment.
What educators must consider is the time spent having students use technology as a "tool" by primarily offering tech as a packaged program, and the time spent using technology as a learning environment.
What are we doing with technology in our classrooms?
Sometimes it feels like teachers and students are bombarded with online programs and apps that push “educational tech.” We often find ourselves hurrying to learn, practice, and perfect, before we feel “good enough” to turn around and teach our students yet another wonderful program, one in which may soon be outdated (if not already extinct). Launching tech in this way is deeply stressing to both teachers and students.
Our classrooms are oftentimes limited with the technology of “educational” programs and apps. Many of these programs seem only to take what was once done on paper onto a screen. And that’s not new or innovative.
There is a clear disconnect between our “educational tech” world, and the plethora the world of technology has to offer our students. There’s so much more out there to learn, so much more than packaged reading programs.
And while we fumble and stress over how to work a new program or app, our students are probably wondering… What’s the point? To be honest, I sometimes wonder the same thing.
Students Know Technology
Our 21st Century students know technology. Some students can do more than we could imagine with technology. It may just be a 21st Century student’s craft. However, their work in this craft needs our guidance.
Last week, one of my students requested to attend Hour of Blog, our after-school writing club. I asked, “How did you hear about it?” He answered, “Billy told me about it on Snapchat.” These are 9-year-old kids. Did it surprise me that they were using Snapchat? Only slightly. These 9-year-old students are online. They are learning. And odds are, there is little guidance for them in this space.
Students need guidance in this ever-changing technological environment, and through the process of what they are learning and creating with technology. It is a dangerous place to leave our students on their own, without guidance.
Technology should be as accessible in learning as a pencil; it shouldn’t be an event. How many pencil labs do you have in your school? – George Couros ‘Inequity and BYOD’
Technology is a rich part of our world. It is awesome to be a learner in our world today, with the world at our fingertips. It would be truly ideal to have a laptop or an iPad available to each one of my students… every single day. We would do so much.
What would we do?
We would explore, research, write, reflect, blog, respond, collaborate, communicate, create, build community, and much, much more. We would learn how to use this space, this technological environment for good. And students would get more of a chance to understand why it is better to use it for good, than for activities considered questionable or unsafe. It would be easier to guide them with consistent use, daily use.
Checking out a laptop cart once a week does not offer that same impact. Once a week is not enough.
Technology is Much More Than a Tool
Technology is not “just” a tool. It is much, much more than that… it is the opportunity for great shifts in learning, for great access. Technology can transform a learning environment.
We have a great opportunity to lead our students into becoming independent critical thinkers, who communicate, collaborate, and create without hesitation in a global society. There is so much to learn, so much continuous change, and such a need for quickly adapting to new spaces. Students need consistent access to technology to practice these 21st Century skills.
Our students will continue in this technological world with us or without us. They need our guidance. They are much too valuable a part of our future to let them go at it alone.
"When we walk to the edge of all the light we have and take the step into the darkness of the unknown, we must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for us to stand on or we will be taught to fly.” -Patrick Overton
A few years ago, my dormant imagination awoke. Now a little older, wiser, and experienced with things that life sometimes forces upon you, I took a breath and welcomed my imagination back.
I began with a simple question… What if? What if I put aside my fears and tried stuff that was new and scary? What if I stayed up late and prepped for something a little extra? What if I pushed a little harder to learn something new? What if I did everything possible to do different, reaching for something greater, without knowing exactly what the outcome would be? What would happen?
In a few weeks, our classrooms will be filled with nervous smiles and worried parents, all wondering what the new school year will bring. Some excited for their children to get started on a continued path of learning and growth, others a bit more worried. Sometimes we feel like it is our job to save each student, and the thought of maybe not reaching every single student affects us in more ways than one. The reality is that we can’t save every student in our classrooms in one single school year, but we can have great impact. Teachers are not superheroes, we are human.
Visit http://afhogan.com/10-tips-student-blogging/ for this blog post.
“A writer’s work is made to be published.” -Deb Kelt
Our time here is over. We ended our experience together with a gallery walk. Each of us publishers of works that took us all a process of 3-4 weeks to accomplish. It was a unique experience. There were tears. It was impactful. My wish is to remember it all, but it feels like only bits and pieces of it remain in my mind. So, I blog. It helps me to remember. And I share because it is what Aaron said I should do, and even though he may not know it… he is one of my mentors. One of many now… now that I know what they look like, my list continues to grow.
So… this is hard work… but anything worth doing, is worth working hard for. I know that for sure. I am here, working harder than I have ever worked in the past 10 years as a teacher, and I don’t get paid for it… not in cash at least. What I get is much, much more.
“If you’re going to teach him how to write, first you have to love him. If you can convince him of that, there’s nothing you can’t teach him.” -AVI
Where do I begin… The first thing that comes to mind is how much. How could so much growth happen in just one week and a couple of Saturdays. Then I realized, oh… yea, they’re using the “workshop” model on us. This experience has moved me to my core. Inspiration would do little to describe what has begun to occur… it’s life changing.
This past week, I’ve had the opportunity to think back and acknowledge every moment of literacy in my life, as far back as my memory would allow. I remembered my sister reading to me those Disney books, especially her favorite... Cinderella; I remembered my brother John creating bedtime stories for me, impromptu, off the top of his head, with that same sweet character, Freddy. I wonder if he remembers. My memories scanned across my old house to the four shelves full of encyclopedias that came with the house we moved into when I was five… and my exploration of them as a child. Mozart, I remember Mozart and his genius in one of those books. His story fascinated me, even before I could read those enormous words. All of it came in and out of my memory like gushing, powerful tornadoes, moving in all directions. It was like I’d been given the chance to relive my life, my beginning, my middle, and now. There’s so much to reflect on… only now, after some sleep, can I focus on what jumps out of my memory.
Back in January of 2017, a small group of 9 of my 4th grade students and I met to talk about maybe starting a newspaper club or something that would impact our school in a positive way. After some discussion about going paperless to save the environment, I proposed blogging.
I’d never done it before, and I really wasn’t completely sure what it was, but I thought it would be a good learning opportunity to experiment with, to discover something new with my students. And I knew that at the very least, we would have fun learning together. I heard of this website for kids called Kidblog off of a post on Twitter, and after some research, I knew at least that it was safe for kids. It is a blogging website, specifically designed and created for students.
I decided to let my small group of students lead this adventure. We met during lunch in our classroom, and my only requirements were that everyone in the group participates and everyone is respectful to each other. That was it. They were going to be the leaders of this experiment, and they were more than excited about it. They worked through all of the brainstorming, planning, goal setting, problem solving, and experimenting. I was simply there to help them along the way. If it worked out okay, we would then introduce it to the rest of the class. Once we got started, it caught on like wildfire.
Author: Marina Rodriguez
Photo by Marina Rodriguez
You can't fail at what you don't try... you can't succeed either.
I've come to the realization that teaching today, may not really be teaching at all. Having the abilities and skills necessary to be good “teachers” for students in our modern world, may simply call on us to be guides instead.
Marina Rodriguez is a California native, living and teaching in Texas, and a National Writing Project, Heart of Texas Writing Project, Teacher Consultant.