Late Bloomers: Technology

 

I was a late bloomer.  I entered high school standing a mighty 4’11” tall.  Playing sports was difficult. Technically,  I was a very sound athlete.  But, my gifts in skills and vision were overshadowed by my inability to keep up athletically. I remember feeling helplessly left behind by circumstances that were out of my control.  Genetics and heredity were not on my side.  Technology today is the equivalent of a 6’2” 7th grade student who can house two Chipotle burritos in one sitting and understands the term ‘5 o’clock shadow’ from personal experience. Educators are charged with staying relevant and integrating technology into curriculum.  Students cannot afford for schools to be technological late bloomers.  We must avoid being left behind, considered irrelevant, and called archaic.  The good news is several silly myths about the use of technology in school, specifically smart phones, are simply untrue.  Below are the top 5 ways my paradigm has changed due to reflecting on feedback from students.  I call them my professional “Growth Spurts”!

 

1. Any Technology Use Makes My Class Relevant

Silly Myth: If I’m not using technology in my classroom I will be considered irrelevant.

Student Voice: Sometimes the focus is so much on technology that I forget what class I’m in.

Growth Spurt: Pump the breaks! Best practice is best practice.  Using technology just to use technology might be more detrimental to the learning process than avoiding it all together.  Using technology is not the end game.  If technology doesn’t serve its purpose to simplify and streamline the road to deeper understanding, don’t use it.

 

2. The Cost of Implementing Technology

Silly Myth: The cost makes integrating technology impossible.

Student Voice: 99.9% of us have smartphones and the ability to download apps.  

Growth Spurt: Did you know many of our turbo-thumbed students would prefer to type an essay on their phone before type it on a computer or write it out by hand?  It’s true. If our students are willing to engage in lessons using their phones, why are we unwilling to meet them where they are?

Here is a list of apps students use in my classroom: Schoology, Voxer, Flipboard, Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, Remind 101, Typorama, Google Drive (Docs, Sheets, Forms), Socrative, Kahoot, and Quizle.

 

zppatronize3. Smart-Phones in the Classroom

Silly Myth: Phones are a hindrance to learning in the classroom.

Student Voice: Phones are an extension of my person. Take my phone and lose my trust forever.

Growth Spurt: It is our job to teach students to appropriately and respectfully carry their phones.  We need to stop taking their phones away.  We definitely need to stop using “phone jails” and “cubbies”.  It’s patronizing.  I allow my students to have their phone on their desk.  However, I ask them to keep it face down when we are not using them.  I try to create an atmosphere that will transfer to their adult life.  It’s been challenging, but I try to pretend my students are my colleagues.  When they use their phone inappropriately, I engage in a conversation and explain why I feel disrespected.  The process includes repetitive conversations but the return trust and respect provides unlimited credibility.  

 

4. The Device as an Interpersonal Vice

Silly Myth: Students today generally do not possess interpersonal speaking skills because they are addicted to their phones.

Student Voice: When I use my phone to communicate, I rarely say things I don’t mean.  I have time to think and say exactly what I want to say.

Growth Spurt: Smart phones provide a voice for students.  I have yet to find research that supports a correlation between phone usage and social awareness.  However, if that perception is true, it is our job to create space to bridge that gap.  In my classroom I always use technology to start a conversation.  There is no “ice to break” when we type our ideas first.  Then, when we put our phones away for face to face interactions, students can’t wait to articulate their ideas vocally.zpstudentvoice

 

5. Resilience vs. Resilience

Silly Myth: Students today lack grit and work ethic unless it’s technology. Students can figure out anything when it comes to technology. They are so tenacious when it comes to troubleshooting.

Student Voice: Adults are hard-working problem solvers unless its technology.  Then, they freak out and give up.

Growth Spurt: Maybe we can learn from each other.  Through which lens do you view your students?  Are they your subjects who need to absorb provided information?  Or, are they partners who offer us as many opportunities to learn as we offer them?  I’ve learned from my students that troubleshooting technology and successfully familiarizing oneself with a new interface comes down to resilience.  Be more stubborn than the tech.  

 

Application and Challenge:

The technology growth spurt is a fingernail on the timeline of education reform.  It’s not the first time innovation has brought monumental change to our field and it most certainly will not be the last.  Our business, to prepare students for tomorrow, should always be transient in nature.  Here’s the kicker; unlike human growth, we control our own professional growth spurts.  In what ways are you pursuing your own professional growth spurts?  In what ways are you engaging the professional growth spurts of your colleagues?  In what ways are your professional growth spurts impacting student learning?


Zach Peterson is a connected high school spanish teacher and coach in Columbus, OH. For more by Zach follow his reflections at zachpetersonsite.wordpress.com