Right now I don’t have much balance in my life. Reasons? My drive to learn and stay relevant in the classroom, report writing, end of year plays, beginning a new to the Grade inquiry unit, being an unbearably reflective learner and trying to juggle family life. So thinking about balance, I was struck the other day by two things this week.
The first thing that happened:
My 15 year old had 10 of his friends over from his class for a ‘hang out’. They all arrived armed with various devices. Their very first goal was to find enough places where they could charge them and get connected. Over the course of the next 24 hrs this is what I saw :
They used their devices to listen to music together, which then prompted conversations.
They used their devices to watch Youtube clips together, which prompted lots of laughter and conversations.
They used their devices to create videos.
They used their devices to look up homework together, which prompted conversation-some of it somewhat negative about certain teachers…hasn’t that always happened?
The point is they used their devices as conversation starters and to create and share. Quite soon, this happened.
They sat around a campfire, listening to music and talking. They scared each other in the dark. They played table tennis, they talked. They stayed up until we said the neighbours could stand it no more. Next morning, after connecting to the world and maybe their parents, they played football, table tennis, cricket, sat around and generally enjoyed hanging out together. The devices were left on the table.
Perhaps this generation of digital natives are able to find balance themselves between their online and offline lives. Perhaps because their lives are so connected, they strive to also disconnect?
The second thing that happened:
” Mum, get off your lap top, you’re always working and come and watch this with us ”
I thought it was funny that my youngest was telling me to take a sort of tech break and exercise thoughtful digital etiquette . It reinforced the importance for me, as a parent of 3 digital natives and as a classroom teacher, to join in with their digital worlds, to model offline activities and to share our tech worlds to build digital trust and understanding. Building guidelines and understanding around the use of technology helps students and my own kids to be part of and contribute to this digital world, whilst also having the skills to self-sensor and make informed decisions. Being a parent and/or an educator is also about helping kids to achieve the right kind of balance in their lives and if they are lucky enough to have choices, then to make informed ones.
I enjoyed reading Keri Lee Beasley’s post about building family digital time, understanding and expectations together. My youngest son’s feedback made me think about the importance of joining in, setting boundaries and striking a balance. My 18 year old expressed concern over always having to study online. He is mindful of his needs.
I hate always looking at screens to read stuff. I prefer it when we use the laptops to work collaboratively, or to start a discussion about something. When I have to read a lot of stuff online, that’s when I really have to get up and do something else. That’s when I have to move around and do sports. That’s when I need lots of breaks.
My oldest son has already flown the nest- I get his ‘life’ feedback through Skype and FaceTime.
Having the opportunity to reflect on technology use through Coetail is helping me both as a parent and educator. Fairly early on in the year , we held a parent workshop around blogging in Grade 1. We had quite a few parents attend, they were positive about their children using blogging as a platform to share and collaborate with others. The feedback I got from the workshop was that parents needed more help to be armed with information and have helpful guidelines so that they are able to help their children learn and self-sensor in their digital worlds, just as they would in their non-digital lives.
I then introduced Twitter to my class. The parents love that their child’s learning becomes so visible on a daily basis, particularly for those who are always travelling.
Parents say it starts family conversations and they feel more connected to their child’s learning. Whilst I see this as a really positive change in my classroom, I also feel I should have more regular conversations with parents to listen to their worries, to share the positives, the learning possibilities and choices around our use of technology and sometimes to help them use the technology itself. I need to make my own thinking and learning on the use of technology in the classroom more visible more regularly to my parents. I need to get feedback from my parents on what they would like more of, what would be more helpful, or what hasn’t worked for them.
So do we have balance in the classroom?
Since starting Coetail, I would say that the balance between using technology as substitute and augmentation has definitely shifted further towards modification and redefinition. We use technology to collaborate, share, search, create, imagine, reflect and play and we build conversations about online safety and digital citizenship into the learning. Whilst the use of technology is not always seamless , it is woven into the classroom in a more natural and intuitive way. Once the learning objective is clear, I help them to plan their pathway to achieve their goals and regularly check in to see how I can best help them. Sometimes the use of technology comes right at the end of a task when they hit share or publish . But they also know that this will be the beginning of new and deeper learning. Feedback from others is how their learning continues.
The students have free access to use the iPads whenever they want. It is not always their first choice of learning tool. The students are currently in the middle of producing a persuasive piece for Grade 2 around helping the environment. We gave them a choice of 6 ways to present their persuasion. Exactly half of the class chose to make iMovies, the rest to make posters. All of the initial planning was done on paper. The students were clear about their goal.They thought about the message they wanted to convey, thought of reasons and thought about how this would look in an iMovie or on a poster. The students who chose to make an iMovie told me it was something they wanted to get better at. So Tanya Irene our ICT facilitator ran a mini lesson so I could do that all important check -in with them on what they knew.
Each morning we do a quick peer assess, 2 stars and a wish on one of the iMovies so that the students can get feedback and edit before they present to Grade 2. This iMovie is still under construction, we are working on the citations.
For my students the most empowering effect of using technology comes in their ability to understand their world by learning from and about others. As they communicate more across continents, they join the dots themselves, recognising things that are the same and different, helping them to make sense of the world. My 6 and 7 year old students were born into a world where using technology is as natural and intuitive as learning to ride a bike. Do they still get excited about learning to swim, their first goal, growing plants, climbing challenging heights, losing their first tooth, sleepovers, making footprints in the first falls of snow and just playing-of course they do. I think they can achieve balance.
Every day, they use technology to connect and collaborate with others to share their ideas and opinions through Kidblog Twitter , Out of Eden Learn Google, Padlet, Skype and along the way we try new technology tools because I am also connecting and collaborating.
I look at them in awe of their ability to communicate confidently across the globe, to think of sharing their great ideas as a given. I recently responded to a tweet about how blogging helps students with their writing. Since my class have been blogging on a daily basis, their reading and writing skills have improved significantly.
I asked them to give me feedback on the use of technology in the classroom. Was it too much….? Too little..? Their overwhelming response was more technology . One girl replied, when are we going to Skype that school in Bangalore about our Zero Trash Campaign?
and Mrs R- when are we going to start Minecraft? I am learning to speak their new literacy and helping them to have balance in their lives. This is their world they are building, and through communicating and collaborating I hope they are building a better one.