Sunday, May 22, 2011

Taking a Child's View of Technology

When it comes to technology, we can learn a lot from kids. Kids these days are far more tech savvy than you might think.  Even if they aren't tech savvy, they certainly aren't afraid of the technology.

Ever had to hand your smartphone or iPod over to your kid to have them show you how to use it?  Ever noticed how they can take great photos of themselves with their phones while yours look, well, really bad? Ever noticed how fast they text?  How did they learn all that?

Adults can become afraid of the technology and the time it will take out of our already very busy lives to master it.  Children have no such qualms.  Adults can become impatient with the frustrations of learning new technologies; children are eager to explore, push buttons and figure the gadgets out.  For those of us new to technology (the word processor just barely entered the digital scene as I was leaving the college scene), we need to become more like children. Kids view technology is a frontier to be explored and discovered rather than something to fear.  They aren't afraid to take a bad picture, evaluate it and try again.  Adults get all hung up on the bad picture.  Kids focus on learning something from that bad picture.  Was it the angle?  The lighting?  Further, kids aren't afraid to ask each other for help and learn from each other.

This week I had the opportunity to teach almost 80 4th graders how to create a website using the Google Apps account their school district had set up for them and for the teachers of the district.  I was a little worried about how this might go. After all, technology is tough to teach to adults because of the high potential for people to get distracted by buttons and shiny lights.  I was afraid it would be a nightmare because students are even more easily distracted by buttons and shiny lights, especially when the other option demanding their attention is merely a teacher's voice.

I was surprised at how attentive the students were.  Given that we weren't working with the fastest machines on the planet and there was some wait time while the computers loaded and everyone logged on, it went pretty smoothly.  Students helped each other out and then turned their attention to me for the next step.  It was actually easier than teaching adults in that respect.  We were able to log them in and teach them about their email and create their website in about 40 minutes.

I wasn't ready for how easy that was.

I wasn't ready for how quickly some of them knew exactly what they wanted their website to be about.  (This process takes me hours and days to figure out when I'm working on a blog or a website.)

I also wasn't ready for how much some of them already knew.  They figured out how to chat to each other without any instruction from me.  Funny how that works. They took off, completely enthused and unafraid, and I learned from them what I needed to be working on teaching them next.

The day after the website creating event, a class set of handheld personal responders (clickers) was delivered to my classroom.  No warning.  No training.  Just the bag of clickers and the installation CD. No instruction manual.  Besides, who would have time to read this while teaching nearly 30 elementary students?  (My instructional coach does this to me, because he knows I can't stand not figuring out a new gadget.)

By that afternoon, the kids and I had figured out how to use the devices, and we'd completed our first review of comparing fractions and decimals. They were the ones to discover how to enter an option.  They also discovered how to "cheat".  Their discoveries taught me what I need to learn next.

I'm not sure who did the teaching and the learning this week.  It felt to me that the minute I delivered a small bit of information, the students were returning a whole lot more information to me to deal with.  It was a wonderfully collaborative, individualized and creative experience at times bordering on the edge of chaos.  We all learned together. Instead of being the "teacher"  I became, more than ever before, a guide.  It was more fun than I've had in a long time at school.  Judging from their responses, my students felt the same way.

This week, I allowed my students to explore and to collaborate, to teach others, and to teach me. I learned (again) that I can't wait to become proficient at all the technology before I begin using it in my instruction.
My students also reminded me that I certainly can't wait until I'm 100% comfortable with the technology before I begin teaching them to use it. The learning in technology comes in the exploring, the using, the failing and trying again.

No comments:

Post a Comment