I’ve been teaching technology for over fifteen years. While student familiarity with this tool has improved, one thing that never varies is the myths surrounding teaching with it. It’s a constant struggle with parents and colleagues who have far more enthusiasm regarding this subject than expertise. Just when I think I’ve got everyone coloring between the lines, things change and I have to get a different paintbrush.
Here are ten of the most common face-palming, head-slapping myths that I have to correct:
Kids are digital natives. They get it.
Let’s look at that term, “digital native”. Techopedia defines it as:
a person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age.
I agree about the familiarity. When these “digital natives” show up in my classroom, they have played with iPads and their parents’ smartphones enough to know how to swipe, tap, squeeze, and shake, but they know none of the nuances required to morph the device from a toy to a productivity tool. This is contrary to popular belief — that being raised with iPads means they understand all about them.
To be fair, kids who use technology regularly at home do have both a baseline set of skills and a fearless enthusiasm for anything with a screen and a power button. We adults envy that confidence, so unlike our abject fear that simply touching the device wrong will break it.
But what kids possess is bravado, not knowledge. Knowledge must be taught.
It’s important to remember that lots of kids aren’t raised with technology. The New York Post reported in 2018 that as many as 5 million schoolage children have no Internet access. The reasons vary, everything from their parents don’t believe in it, can’t afford it, don’t trust it, or have no way to connect to the Internet, but the result is the same: No technology for kids considered to be the “digital native” generation.
If you watch the news, tolerance seems to be a lost art. College kids shout down speakers. Mobs throw chairs through windows. Hordes of hooligans loot stores. It’s not that we don’t try. The Kindness Movement is more popular than ever. TeachingTolerance.org even uses Black Lives Matter as a model for tolerance education. Martin Luther King Day is always chockful of admonitions against prejudice and intolerance.
But how do you teach it in the confines of a classroom? Another lesson plan? A movie about Mahatma Gandhi? Quotes like this from Helen Keller:
The highest result of education is tolerance.
These have all been done and by many measures, America and the world are more intolerant than ever. So what do you do in your classroom to get this important attitude across? Here are some fresh ideas that you may not have tried:
Model tolerant behavior
Words don’t stem the tide of intolerance. No matter how many times we say, “See the other’s perspective,” or “Be kind,” these words are meaningless to a dedicated zealot who feels the end justifies the means. Sometimes, the best way is simply to model tolerance. In writing, this is a powerful storytelling device called “show don’t tell”. It means instead of talking about tolerance, be tolerant. When a student gets angry over a grade, explain where they fell short or how to improve a grade.
Admittedly, in the current social media world, words are today’s doing. People join hashtag campaigns like #Nevergiveup or #Bringhomeourgirls. While these may raise public awareness, they don’t deliver the tolerance necessary to change the outcome. Don’t hashtag a sentiment; find an action for the words.
As a parent, I fondly remember browsing bookstores with my children. We probably went there with a specific book in mind, one required for school, but ended up taking our time exploring all the tomes available. Though bookstores remain, too often, parents simply buy books online–digitally or print, doesn’t matter–and miss out on that opportunity to discover new worlds.
That’s why when Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Alex Mitchell, suggested this article–The Future of Physical Bookstores in The Digital Age–I said yes almost before reading it. You’ll find Alex has written a thoughtful analysis of what’s going on with physical bookstores in an ebook era:
The Future of Physical Bookstores in the Digital Age
Brick and mortar bookstores have been a dying breed in recent years. It seems every time we turn around another handful of locations are closing.
When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007 authors began to see the end of times. Worries about cheap, sometimes poorly edited, and often over-saturated eBook markets seemed like they would be the death of the printed word. Another supposed threat to the print book is torrenting and online downloads of materials.
However, in recent years it seems that print books have been selling better and better.
It is surprising, then, that many noted names in the book industry have been hit hard in recent years. People have noticed that there has been a slump in sales for Barnes and Noble, and the company has closed many locations. Additionally, the popular entertainment store Hasting’s was bought and liquidated in 2016 after failing to gain investors during their bankruptcy protection period.
Virtual Reality–VR–is the 2018 buzzword among students, teachers, and even parents. And rightfully deserved, VR has the ability to recreate so many of the rules that used to shape education. Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, Sara Stringer, shares her opinion on the key factors that could affect the importance of VR to education:
Opinion: How VR Will Impact Student Education
Virtual reality (VR) is an exciting new concept that continues to shape how users see the world around them. It’s one of the few technologies that inspires students who have never known life without smartphones and the internet.
The learning potential of VR is incredible. It offers new ways to inspire and engage students and will undoubtedly have a greater presence in education as the technology becomes more available. In particular, students who are enrolled in online charter schools can greatly benefit from these technological advances. However, to really predict the prevalence of virtual reality in the future of education, we have to take a look at three key factors.
One of the things that makes VR so universal is its ease of use for students of all ages.
Younger students—preschool to early elementary—typically learn through experience. Putting them into immersive environments can complement the learning they’re doing at home or in the classroom and extend their understanding of new concepts and ideas. Through VR, they can visit far-off places, see dinosaurs walk the earth, and observe wildlife in their natural habitats.
VR gives students more contextual information to what they’re learning. Reading or watching videos about the tides is one thing; being submerged in the ocean to witness the influence they have on sea life is another. It can also unlock students’ potential and keep them engaged no matter what subject they’re learning. They can gain new perspectives on the people, places, cultures, and subjects they’re studying. More complex subjects, like anatomy, can come to life for older students. Not only can they virtually visit a lab, but they can hold a heart in their hand.
In considering the question, Is technology outpacing you?, let’s first look at technology’s place in the current education landscape. True, it is touted as a magic wand that will fix all education woes. Sure, 73% of teachers use cell phones in their classrooms and 92% say the Internet has a “major impact” on their teaching. We gush over new hardware like iPads and Chromebooks. We spend millions on training teachers to blend tech into their lessons. We darkly predict that the day will soon arrive when technology erases the need for teachers.
But truthfully, technology is less a magic wand than a unicorn. It will never:
- take over education. Using webtools and burying noses in digital devices won’t provide the interpersonal skills required to succeed in the working world. Any job students get post-school will require listening to real people, responding, and adapting when body language says you’ve confused the person in front of you.
- replace teachers. The human piece to education can’t be overstated. The attention and care provided by a teacher — technology may measure it but can’t provide it.
Current research supports this:
“… among school-related factors, teachers matter most. … good teachers are irreplaceable assets for coaching and mentoring students, addressing the social and emotional factors affecting students’ learning, and providing students with expert feedback on complicated human skills such as critical thinking, creative problem solving, communication, and project management.” — RAND Education
What technology does, and does quite well, is make learning materials more accessible, more equitable, more up to date, and better suited to individuals. And importantly, it automates tedious tasks like roll call and grading so teachers have more time for students.
We all have a memory of our favorite teacher, almost always, the one who made us think we could do the impossible. In my case, it was Ms. Sampson. I left third grade and my third-grade teacher Ms. Gordon feeling like I didn’t measure up — and I didn’t. I wasn’t as fast, as clever, or as driven as my classmates. Ms. Gordon actually reprimanded me so roughly in front of the class once that a classmate I barely knew came to my defense, explaining to Ms. Gordon that it wasn’t my fault. Some students learn differently.
My fourth-grade teacher, Ms. Sampson, changed all that. When I entered her class, I did think it was my fault, that I wasn’t smart enough, but she explained without a single word where I was wrong. She didn’t do it by being an easy grader or downsizing my work requirements or even unduly praising me. She didn’t try to be my best friend and she didn’t make excuses for my third-grade failures. Maybe this was because she was new and didn’t know how to profile students who would succeed from those who wouldn’t. In fact, she wasn’t any of the characteristics we often equate to great teachers.
Now, as a teacher myself, I wanted to understand why Ms. Sampson succeeded where Ms. Gordon, a Nationally-recognized Teacher and in the Top Five in my school district, so abysmally failed to spark my love of learning. I started by reviewing knowledgeable websites like Benchmark Education. I read books like James Stronge’s Qualities of Effective Teachers. Then, I queried colleagues, administrators, and parents about why they thought some teachers succeed in preparing students for college and career and others just don’t.
Turns out that effective teachers all have certain characteristics:
The first week of school is different from all others. During this week, teachers and students alike spend time getting to know each other, become comfortable in the classroom where they’ll spend countless hours for the next nine months, and take time to reach a comfort level with leaving summer behind. I’ve gathered suggestions below from some of the leading education folks, those who are all about project-based learning rather than the application of pedagogy, to share with you. I’ve also included a few general back-to-school classroom activities with a digital spin to get you back into school quickly and agilely.
Classroom Activities include:
The first week of school is different from all others. During this week, teachers and students alike spend time getting to know each other, become comfortable in the classroom where they’ll spend countless hours for the next nine months, and take time to reach a comfort level with leaving summer behind. I’ve gathered suggestions below from some of the leading education folks (like Catlin Tucker, Alice Keeler, Eric Curts, Richard Byrne, and Monica Burns), those who are all about project-based learning rather than the application of pedagogy, to share with you. I’ve also included a few general back-to-school classroom activities with a digital spin to get you back into school quickly and agilely.
Classroom Activities include:
- Authentically use forms.
- Build a puzzle to decorate class walls for Back to School Night.
- Let students prepare how-tos to share with classmates.
- Prepare English Language Learners to participate fully in class.
- Review class tech tools so students are comfortable with them and not surprised when they pop up.
- Review the class LMS.
- Set individual goals.
- Share back-to-school thoughts with a #hashtag.
- Take class selfies.
- Write a back-to-school story.
My Army son is coming to visit from Okinawa Japan for a month. We are training it across country (I’m in California) to visit my Navy daughter in the Washington DC area. Along the way, we’re stopping in Marion Indiana to visit my sister Tina who I haven’t seen in over a decade (though we talk often). I will get to meet many of her extended family I have never met. What a trip!
I am planning to be back to blogging the last week or so of July. Really, it’s hard to keep my fingers off the keys for longer than that. As a result, I won’t be around much. I apologize in advance for missing many of your posts. I will try to drop in now and then but I’m not sure of time constraints.