The following post is written by Beth Holland & Shawn McCusker from EdTechTeacher. Be sure to sign up for one of the last remaining spots at their iPad Summit!
From quill and ink, to slate and chalk, to pencil and paper, to typewriter, to computer, to iPad…. each evolution of technology has allowed students to make their thinking visual, articulate their ideas, demonstrate their understanding of concepts and skills, collaborate with their peers, and communicate in complex and modern ways.
Each advance has made it possible for those who master them to go a little further and to communicate a little more effectively. Historically, people who have taken the time to learn these technologies, or develop new ones, have reaped great rewards.
Andrew Carnegie was “discovered” because of his ability to use the telegraph – the peak of communication at the time – to unravel a rail snarl that paralyzed his company.
Edison created a way for people to record themselves, and others, and share these messages widely.
Bill Gates invented a way for people to visually interact with data on their computers.
Tim Berners-Lee (not Al Gore) designed the Internet so that computers, and their subsequent users, could connect, communicate, and collaborate. With all of these individuals, each one mastered a newer form of complex communication and then became innovators in how they used it.
The technology of today simply takes this connection, communication, and collaboration to a new level and is tied to a process that began, perhaps, with the first use of smoke signals. In fact, the writing of this article would not have been as efficient without these new technologies.
Note that neither a phone, nor a face-to-face meeting, occurred. In fact, we have only met in person on one occasion, and yet we can seamlessly collaborate. So how does this apply to the classroom? Why is it essential when we are using devices with students that we go beyond simply giving students a tool and expect them to create course-specific content with it?
Because unlike with previous technologies, the teaching of associated social skills seems to have been ignored. We can all remember our parents teaching us to politely answer a phone and write a letter. These norms transferred easily to the realm of e-mail, but how about a 140 character Tweet or a short text? How do we, as educators, help our students to develop skills to use the device as a tool of creation and the social skills to use it without negative consequence?
This actually raises another question, WHY has the modeling of communication, collaboration, and social skills not accompanied these new advances?
Educators, parents, and adults have experienced turmoil and discomfort because there have been few rules to go along with these latest technologies and platforms; because, frankly, they have been created and instigated by our students. The telegraph, telephone, computer, and even the Internet were invented by established adults. Facebook, one of the more disruptive technologies, took off because of a college-aged kid! Teens started texting long before their parents.
Since we, as adults, did not model appropriate usage for our children and students, they don’t know how to react to these new communication styles, struggling to determine when they should use them and when they should not.
This state of “anomie” or normlessness can be frustrating at the very least. This was true with the invention of cars, phones, Walkmen, iPods and is no less true for devices in the classroom.
Just think about how hard theaters have worked to educate people about cell phone use during movies and plays. Consider the efforts currently being made to prevent texting and driving. Society is working hard to create norms in light of the rapid evolution of new technologies.
As teachers, we will need to focus on helping students to learn the norms that relate to having devices in class as well as the appropriate context in which to use – or not use – them. We will need to help the students master the social implications of using these tools appropriately in order to make sure that they add to, rather than distract from, their learning.
Given the challenges of piloting programs, integrating technology, and addressing 21st Century Skills, how do we also teach these complex communication strategies? What does this look like in the classroom?
Today, we are faced with the challenge of helping to define for our students what is appropriate and effective for these new devices – iPad, Chromebook, laptop, smart phone, etc. As we think about how we can effectively leverage them to transform our curriculum and empower our students as creators, we also need to think about how we are developing our students as citizens and future leaders in the digital world.
Just as long ago elders shared the best use of the smoke signal with their children as well as its drawbacks (Smoke signals give you an advantage over your enemies, but also tell them exactly where you are). Or, perhaps more realistically, we have been tasked to guide our students to create appropriate and effective norms of their own.
The next challenge, and maybe the next step in the successful integration of new technology will be to examine our own behavior in how we choose to use, leverage, and model usage of these new tools to not only reflect our own values but also shape those of our students.
Beth Holland and Shawn McCusker will both be leading pre-conference workshops at the upcoming EdTechTeacher iPad Summit. There are a few spaces still available in their sessions. For more information and registration, visit ipadsummitusa.org.