I am amazed by the sheer power students hold in their hands today with the devices and connections available to them. I am even more amazed at how little they do with that power.
I entered into the teaching profession as a “digital immigrant,” not born into the world of technology that my students take for granted. Let’s put it this way: We got a dial up connection my freshman year of high school and I didn’t have a cell phone until I graduated from college. I’m comfortable online, but I don’t live my life here. I went to meet the so-called iGen, a generation “born with an iphone already in their hands.” It followed, I thought, that they would be hyper-advanced at using their tech devices.
Not so. After 3 years in the classroom, I can report that most students do little more than 1) make phone calls, 2) check instagram, and 3) play video games. Wait — that’s what I do! In fact, I do more: I blog, I can design websites, I videoconference… and, and, and. What gives?
I think the answer is, they’re still kids, and they don’t know any better than we do what they are supposed to do with all of this new “stuff.” But it’s such a shame to waste it!
Last semester, I gave my advisory students a fun homework assignment: Over the weekend, learn how to do one new thing on your phone. They looked at me like I was not a “serious” teacher and on Monday, no one wanted to report back. Apparently, they did not believe this was a “real” education. Phones are bad; books are good. But as a culture, we need to fully accept that phones are books — they are libraries, in fact.
If the COVID-19 crisis has made anything in my life palpable, it has been the need to transition to a high-tech lifestyle. The time is now. We have all the tools, and we have the ability. Even children have the tools and the ability. As a society we are ready.
A 21st Century education MUST include instruction on:
1) How to write an email without typing the entire message in the subject line.
2) How to create a personal website (with a blog.)
3) Digital citizenship and what it means to participate with integrity, even though you may feel invisible/invincible when online
4) How to manage your digital footprint: Students need to understand that anything they post can and will follow them, forever.
These are just the basics, and I believe they are things every student has a right to know. Schools that don’t incorporate these skills will leave their students without essential knowledge they need for college, career, and life. I don’t think we can afford to be late to getting on board with this.