Thursday, December 01, 2016

Teaching Tip #63

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #63
I read an interesting quote this summer: “Kids today are prepared for life by what they are learning outside of school rather than what they learn in school.”
Unfortunately, I agree with this statement.  I don’t think that what we have to offer students in terms of curriculum and knowledge isn’t vital.  I know that it is.  However, I know the way we offer that curriculum and knowledge just isn’t engaging to our digital students.  Thus, they are being prepared more for life by what goes on outside of school than what goes on inside.
Outside of school, students engage in skills and activities that fully engage and inspire them.  Because they live in such a flat world, they also have far more access to knowledge and information than any generation before them.  I think students have always been more motivated by their own personal interests and passions outside of school.  For example, while in the later ‘80’s and early ‘90’s, I sat in my room and read Stephen King books and wrote my own stories (these were skills that I learned on my own that made a huge impact in my life later on when I had a high school teacher connect my passion for reading and writing outside of school with her English class IN school).  But that was pretty much the extent of what I could do with my passions and interests because of the isolated world I grew up in.
Today, however, that isn’t the case for the digital generation.  A student with a passion for reading and writing (like me when I was a student) can certainly still read and write as much as I did years ago.  The difference, though, is that it doesn’t simply end there for them.  Students could then start a blog where they can publish their writing and connect to a larger, real-world audience.  Students can make videos pertaining to their favorite books and authors and publish those on Youtube.  Students can also make and publish podcasts on iTunes.  Students can connect to larger communities of people with their shared interests and passions.  Moreover, students can even go so far as to publish their own works via amazon, iBooks, and a number of other outlets.  This all was unimaginable to me when I was reading and writing in my room in 1989!
Just look at all of the project based learning, Velcro learning, and collaboration the students were doing in that last example.  And none of it had to do with anything that went on in school.
Thus, it is more important than ever to try and connect the digital generation’s personal interests and passions to the content of our classes, just as a teacher did with his middle school English class in Florida.  When I attended the National Council Teachers of English national convention last winter in Minneapolis, I attended a session where a middle school English teacher demonstrated how – using Amazon publisher – he and his students crowd sourced the publication of a class novel (each student got to contribute 200 words for a specific segment of the novel from various points of view.  Then an editing board, made up of members of the class, would select with point of view would be included in the book from each student).  Now that is digital teaching!

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