In this age of common core, we are realizing the importance of bridging the gap between digital natives and true digital literacy. As we look at our kids, we see a group raised on technology, video games, and basic cable. They know just enough to be dangerous, but how much do they really know? If we need help, they know enough to fix our iPhone. They also know how to record two shows at once on the DVR while watching a third. And they can find the coolest videos on YouTube, Vimeo or Hulu.
These might be things that are difficult to some adults, but not all of us. What we bring to the table is a set of skills that helps to decide between good information and bad. As teachers, we know how to reach the unreachable in terms of learning. But in this age of digital literacy, what I see more and more of are teachers who have difficulty integrating digital tools into their practice. What is interesting is that some teachers lack the one attribute our digital natives have- no fear.
As kids, many of us had a concept of video games that gave you one chance to succeed. If you died or lost your turn, you had to start over. There was little chance to learn and build on successes or failures. Kids raised in the late 90’s have been fed by video games that give them unlimited do-overs. As a result, they have grown to have no fear. Because of this, kids are willing to try anything. This is why they are so good at fixing and finding the things adults have trouble with. On the flip side, many teachers are unwilling to introduce new tools because they are afraid to try new things. We need to be less fearful of looking foolish or worried about breaking things.
The thing we need to remember is that students need our guidance. In some cases, they use the tools, but don’t understand how to use them properly. They may have seen and used PowerPoint, but don’t know how to use it effectively. They may know how to use the internet, but don’t know how to discriminate between good and bad information.
What does this have to do with teaching? As teachers on the cusp of common core, we are faced with integrating more technology into learning. We are expected to foster greater digital literacy into our classrooms. But many teachers are afraid to try new things. As a result they are less likely to introduce new tools into the classroom. In doing so, kids pass through the halls of high school never being exposed to tools they will be expected to use in college or work.
But how do you flip the switch from the traditional style of teaching to the digital way? Branch out and explore new ways by developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Include teachers you admire, authors you read, and maybe a few new names. Create a Twitter account and follow people involved in #edchat or #edtech. Use Facebook to follow big names in Ed tech. This will help you pick up new ideas and new habits. Don’t be afraid to solicit the help of kids in the know when it comes to using new tools. And the next time an email runs across your inbox for a professional development class related to technology, explore it. You never know how easy or hard incorporating new tech into your classroom can be until you try.
The main thing is, don’t be afraid of something until you try it.
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