I was in Florida on vacation with my family when I came across this bumper sticker. While, its intended meaning was not, how I would say educational, it definitely drove my mind into the educational arena for whatever reason.
I have spent the last year and a half reading, listening, and learning about 21st century students, classrooms, and learning. David Warlick, Wes Fryer, Miguel Guhlin, Vicki Davis, and more have all been great examples for me to follow in this new area. While I have always felt that I was on the cutting edge of instruction with technology, I realized that I was… only it was the edge just ahead of the rest of my district. It was not the edge that my students were teetering on.
Their edge is dangerous. It has few boundaries and requires them to take risks to learn new skills. Their edge is the manipulation of multiple environments virtually to engage with others of like interests. Their edge is scaring the living daylights out of teachers everywhere so much so that new rules are being written almost daily to halt the tide. But why?
What the kids know, and few of us do, is that the future is now. Technology is just a tool to comprehend, adjust, manipulate, collaborate, integrate, mash-up, publish, and communicate. Technology is just a tool to share, envision, enlist, create, and orchestrate. Technology is just a tool. And every tool has a use. Our students are using this tool. Sometimes the right way, sometimes not. Ever hear your dad say, “If you are not going to use a (insert tool name here) the right way, don’t use it at all.” That is where we are at. Sometimes the tool is not used the right way, but it is mainly because we have not shown students how to do that. That is mainly because so many of us do not know how to do it ourselves.
So what does this all have to do with a bumper sticker seen on the back of a rusted, black primered 1977 Pontiac Trans-Am on Dale Mabry Boulevard in Tampa, Florida, on a balmy summer evening in June of 2007? Ammo. Plain and simple. The ammo our students use, to be exact. It is most definitely the currency of the new millennium. It is the currency that will deliver them into the new millennium with strength and knowledge beyond our comprehension. It is the ammo that we build our profession on. It is the ammo that we use to build our skills as professionals. The ammo? Information.
David Warlick and others have said many times, it is not the technology that is the focus. It is the information. He lists three things about information and how it has changed: 1. information has become increasingly networked, 2. It is increasingly digital, 3. We are overwhelmed by information.
Information is networked. I read and hear about people continually frustrated about their children memorizing odd facts to regurgitate back on to tests (capitals of states, major crops for regions, etc). I am fine with asking kids to know these things. No, let me restate that. I am fine with asking kids to know how to find these things. Right now it is as simple as Google. I am also fine with asking kids to remember these things AFTER engaging activities to learn them. Webquests, wikipedia searches, Google searches, informational videos/podcasts creation, wiki creation, fictional newscasts, and more can all give them these experiences. The point is, these kids can access and share information in ways they never could before. Networked. Yes, they are, and yes it is.
Information is digital. This is pretty simple to demonstrate. In 2002 alone, people around the world created so much new information (mostly digital), it could fill 500,000 Libraries of Congress. If it were not in digital format, where would we house it all? How would we and our students ever access it in an efficient manner? Blogs, wikis, and other digital tools are the avenue to which this information is being created. And that was nearly six years ago. Can you imagine now?
That easily leads to David’s last point: we are overwhelmed by information. Easily, this is the most fundamental reason to be using new read/write web tools in the classroom. Yes, we are overwhelmed by what is out there. our students are not. Yet if we sit back and do not offer them the chance to use tools that will allow them to wade through the mass, they will just grab the first ring they pass by and claim it to be accurate and factual. Consider these two sites: Dog Island & Tree Octopus. Both are very believable. Both are very false. Could you tell the difference if you were a kid?
I am not preaching the “tech only” way of instruction. Putting a computer in front of a student (or teacher for that matter) does not a lesson make. Nor does it build new knowledge and higher level thinking without proper use. Technology is a tool. Or should I say that technology is the key. It can open doors for our kids in ways we cannot yet imagine.
Probably the most telling quote comes from Net Generation Comes of Age, written by Dr. Larry Rosen, Cal State professor who has been studying this generation of kids. He says,
“A baby boomer and even a Gen X would say, “Well, I use the Internet” or “I use my cell phone a lot” or “I text message” and so on. Gen X learned how to use technology, whereas the Net Gen kids were raised steeped in technology and they don’t use it, it just simply is.”
Technology allows our students to do new things with old and new stuff that will drive our future and theirs. It is the information that guides our futures. It is the information that causes us to think and operate at higher levels. It is the technology that allows us to collaborate, communicate, and create new things with information.
So as you begin this new experience of integrating technology, keep these things in mind. Regardless of the content area you teach in, your students need the ammo that only you can provide. Let them use technology to process it, and you will be impressed with the outcome.
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