“Digital natives” “the Net Generation”… these are terms I hear a lot. I’m on Twitter and Facebook. I blog. I text. I create content and upload it on a regular basis. I’m not online constantly, but I do feel a need to stay connected, and I get excited about the possibilities for sharing and collaborating that exist because of web 2.0. I keep reading that this is what my students do too. It’s what they want from teachers. So when I was planning for this year, I thought about how I could make my teaching more representative of the world they experience outside the classroom. I thought about authentic writing tasks. I thought about anywhere anytime learning and created blogs and edmodo classes. I even started to think about how to use cell phones in the classroom. My new principal was so excited by this that she scheduled 2 of my senior academic English classes in a computer lab! I was so psyched! I even made a funky intro movie for my classes.
And then, at the end of my first class on the first day, it happened. A polite and friendly student said to me, “Um, it’s kinda weird being in a computer lab for English.”
My heart started to race a bit as it does when I get anxious.
“Weird good? Or weird bad?” I asked hopefully.
She smiled, not wishing to offend. “Kind of weird bad. Like, it’s English class. I don’t really think there’s a need for technology.”
My heart sunk. Literally. I found it in my left shoe at lunch.
Now I know, I know. It was just one student. I know some of them were as psyched as I was. But I got the impression from a number of them that this idea of a 21st century English class was just as threatening for them as it must be for some teachers. I really didn’t expect that.
It made me wonder. Where is this coming from? My current theory is that most students probably are digital natives. I’m not sure they’re as savvy as we’d like them to be, but most of them are comfortable using technology (that’s what they told me on the survey anyway). But I think that some of them have gotten the message from parents and teachers that technology is bad. It’s a distraction. It’s a toy. It’s something you ban. It doesn’t have a place in a serious academic classroom (maybe?). And these students are the “good” students–academic, disciplined, polite, respectful. They really listen to the messages they get from adults. And they’ve gotten the message that this is bad.
I’ve had to change my mindset about technology in the English classroom. Instead of it being the expectation, it is an option. It is another way for me to differentiate my instruction. They don’t have to post comments on the blog (but I wish they would). They don’t have to submit assignments on edmodo (but it’s usually more convenient that way). I’ve told them I never want to get an angry phone call from a parent saying, “You told my son he HAD to submit his assignments online.” It’s an option.
It’s so strange for me because, yes I’m interested in technology, but I’m doing this because I thought it would be good for the students. I thought they would prefer to learn this way. I thought I was making life easier for them–not harder.
Sigh. It’s still early. And I think some of them are coming around. The girl who spoke to me on the first day made a wordle and shared it with her classmates via edmodo. That’s kind of weird good.