Monday, April 16, 2012

What's Holding You Back? Part 3

Behavior Issues/Class Management Issues

There were a few comments about how using technology is a hassle because you have to monitor what students are doing.  Two points about that: 
1.  Do we stop using everything that is a potential problem?  
2.  Is modeling proper use of any tool important when teaching students, whether it be a book or the Internet?

If we are going to quit using things because kids might do something silly or stupid with it, then ban paper right now.  Kids have been wadding it up, throwing it, passing notes on it, using it to make spit wads, and it's flammable.  Oh, pencils are also out because of the sharp points and that annoying tapping that kids tend to do.  I saw a student hit someone with his binder the other day, so we had better get rid of those, too.  You get the idea.  Class management is tough.  You are tougher.  Give kids something authentic and meaningful to do, and they will goof off much less.  If kids see what they are doing as important, they don't have time to look up ways to make fart noises with their armpits.  

What can they do with the things you are teaching them that people in the "real world" do?  How can they use what you are teaching to do something that they want to do?  How will knowing this help them? Is there something they can produce that contributes to what is already available?  Here's an example:  a middle school class talking about pirates in a book they were reading started talking about piracy in another sense:  online piracy.  Recognizing a learning opportunity, the teacher let the students explore online piracy.  What they found was disappointing.  There seemed to be a lot of information, but it was in legalese and difficult for kids to understand.  Ironically, the students reasoned, most piracy was done by the very people who would find it difficult to read the information about it.  That could have been the end of the little side venture, but again recognizing an opportunity, the teacher asked the students if they could make something that explained online piracy for kids their own age better than the things they were finding online.  Le Arrgh was born:  the Digital Teen Anti-Piracy Website.  

Think about all the skills that these students used in the creation of this resource!  They researched, analysed, compared websites, sources, and the information itself, they collaborated (by placing a conference call with a bigwig record company executive for a live interview), wrote, edited, proofread, and published an entire resource for others.  

The point here is that the teacher could have stuck to the plan.  They could have just read the book, discussed the questions, given assignments, and had a test.  But they didn't.  As a result, the kids learned more, practiced skills, and therefore learned things more deeply and remembered more about the book they were reading (which, by the way, had nothing to do with online piracy).  Amazing.  

Modeling our expectations is HUGE for class management issues.  How in the world did it come to be that perhaps the most powerful invention in all of human history-the Internet-is rarely modeled for appropriate use in schools?  It is tremendously dangerous to expect kids to grow up teaching themselves how to behave online.  Where are the adults?  Teachers:  it's our job to step up and show them the way.  We live in a time when the exact same tool that can be used for infinite growth and learning could also be used by the same person to do nothing but entertain themselves into an ignorant stupor.  Which way will we show them?  If we don't choose either, and leave it up to parents and peers, are you confident in the way things will end?  

In conclusion, don't let class management issues be the reason you don't use technology with students.  If you need help, ask me to come in and help you get things going.  It may be a stretch for you to think of the ways digital tools could be used to further your class goals.  Let me help.  If management gets in the way, I'll help find solutions for that, too.  Don't be afraid to lean on me for support.  That's why I'm here.

Here are the survey comments that fit this category:
"I have attempted many times to allow students to use technology for research, but 1/3rd to sometimes a 1/2 of the students will begin using the technology for other interests other than what we are to be working on. It's just another discipline issue to deal with on top of everything else."
"Some students change web pages to their own interests if they think someone is not watching them. They quickly switch back if a teacher gets in their area."
"It's just one more thing that I have to watch."
"I can't trust students to be responsible with it on their own, and I don't want to have to walk around and monitor what they are doing all the time."

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