Sunday, March 29, 2009

R.I.P. Digital Native/Immigrant Tags

I have been thinking about this for a while and have discussed it with a few people, including the amazingly wise Sylvia Martinez. In fact, Sylvia has a great blog post here on this very subject. My favorite line is this, "“digital immigrant' creates the same problem in reverse by providing a convenient excuse for teachers who don’t want to learn something new."

I would like to never hear the digital native/immigrant titles again. They are not accurate and they might even create some problems.

First, let me make my case for the elimination of the "native" tag. Earlier this year, I watched the high school media master help a kid do a search. The kid was required by the teacher to research his own family name. The media specialist recommended that he search for 'heritage' and his last name. I could tell the new freshman was getting very frustrated. I went over to see if I might give him some additional help. I noticed that he was typing his last name into the address bar. When I suggested that he start with Google, I noticed that he had typed [sic]. That explained why he wasn't getting results. I sat with him and suggested put genealogy and origin in the search box with his last name This same scene is portrayed all the time with different players and subjects...results are the same. My wife, who is a high school English teacher can attest that no matter how much we think the kids are technologically savvy, they lack some very important skills in searching and evaluating.

So, who is hurt by the label?? In the past, I have recommended to teachers that WE ALL are responsible for teaching kids good information and Internet skills. A response I have heard several times, "The kids know more that we do anyway." No, they don't. They are not afraid of technology and they USE technology, but oddly, we prohibit their familiar tools (like cell phones and social networks) when they get inside the school building. But this post is not about that. 

I am comfortable with the title Social Navigation Experts, but I don't think that really helps us out a lot. We can not assume that the kids know more than us or that they have superior knowledge. In fact, I have read lot of studies and observations that kids (and college students) never go past the first page of a Google search. Others have said that students don't scroll at all. If we just assume their vast knowledge, we may miss a great opportunity to teach ethical use of technology.

I wholeheartedly agree with Sylvia's assertion that calling adults Digital immigrants is 'providing a convenient excuse for teachers who don’t want to learn something new.' I have noticed it is with a bit of relief that teachers use the 'kids know more than us anyway' line. Even if you believe that the kids have far superior knowledge, it is a necessity to teach kids to be more responsible and better ways of doing educational endeavors.

We are educators...We must not hide behind cliches as excuses. We have studied pedagogy and we must use it to best instruct our students.  

We Will Create Change!  So long trite titles that allow bad teachers to climb under excuses and bury their heads.... Hello students, we are your teachers and we will teach you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

W2C2 - The beginning of something big...

I am on FIRE!  It started with a blog post here and these words, "Sometimes I get tired. I never imagined that convincing educators about the educational value of technology would be so difficult." Well, this hits me right where I live... I could add about three sentences on about other things that I never imagined about education.  It is tiring!

In my comment to the aforementioned blog, I came up with a group of like-minded educators banding together for change... I called it W2C2 -- We Will Create Change! I MEAN IT! If a group of caring educators can band together and support each other, We Will Create Change. I didn't know exactly what it would all mean to me. I Plurked about it and got some humorous (Will there be a secret handshake) and thoughtful questions.... (What is the mission of the group). Wow, forced me to cool down for a few seconds (it's hard when I am on fire) and formulate some thoughts.  Maybe a little background...

Everyone who reads this blog on a regular basis (I love all 12 of you), knows that I LOVE FableVision. Long before I worked with the Ambassador group, I loved what the company and the people were about.  If you have read the blog from the beginning, last May, you probably have pieced together what blows wind on the flames...  It is really very simple, at the core of the company and the people, they want to make the world a better place by producing things that get kids to be creative. Yeah, well, just look at the website and you get that. But, they also do that mission in REAL LIFE!  It isn't just a mission statement on the website. I teach in Iowa, but I can hear cheers from Boston.

You see, when I get down and tired from fighting the good fight, I have the most amazing set of cheerleaders that a person can imagine. I have Peter H. and Paul Reynolds -- who send wonderful notes and keep me on track. I have Peggy Healy Stearns and Bill, who believe in what I can do and what I can accomplish. Even if adults in my own building don't believe it, they believe I have a voice and worth. I have wonderful FableVision Ambassador friends, like Julie, who chat or send emails that encourage me to keep going. The list could go on and on....

What could you accomplish if you had such a stellar cheering section??  Well, as I mentioned, I teach in a tiny town in Iowa. In the last year, I have been published in a national ed tech magazine, I have presented at NECC with the most amazing software designer (Peggy Healy Stearns), I have started a blog that has been read by people around the world....  Yeah, but this isn't about me, is it?  Just proving a point. If you would have told me 18 months ago that this would have happened, I would have laughed....a lot.

So, here it is..... W2C2!  WE Will Create Change ...  We will cheer each other on during those down days.  We will make a change, starting with each other, and moving through the World. You know, I believe from the bottom of my soul that our kids deserve this. They will have tons of teachers who talk at them...How many will they have that care about them and want to do whatever is necessary to help them learn and be great people. 

 Who is with me?

Monday, March 16, 2009

We Are Our Actions and We Choose Those

"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities." 
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I have been working with a kid at school who is going through a challenging time in life.  By working with, I mean listening and trying to find ways to help.  My message to the student, in response to information about how the family behaves is, "You get to choose who you become." 

As adults, we all know that is a fact (don't we?). We choose, through our actions, who we become and who we are. We can't choose the things that happen to us, but we can choose how we react. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons we can teach kids is that they can be who they want to be.  No kid is stagnant, they are 'not done yet.'  

So, maybe part of our job is to show kids a variety of ways to be and model the positive side of life.  My thought of the day is....are we doing that?  With everyone???  Do our actions show kids everything our words portray?  

When I asked the student how I could help them through the terrible times, the response was, "Keep helping me see that I can choose who I become."  Yep, that's my job.