The Next Big Thing

7 Apr

Just a few days ago I heard my daughter banging her hair brush on a metal bowl on our kitchen island.  After a bit I was annoyed, so when I looked down to see what she was doing and tell her to stop I noticed she had stopped hitting the bowl and slowly started hitting the island – which is made of wood – instead.  Then she started hitting the bowl again, then up to the glass casserole dishes, then back to the island and back to the bowl.  She looked up to me smiling as if to say, “look what I figured out.” For me it was amazing as I got to see a real life education lab right in front of me; my daughter, testing out a theory, finding a solution and feeling proud of her discovery. 

Too often in Education I think we look for the next big thing.  The gadget, the gizmo, the magic bullet to help kids learn faster and better.  Instead of teaching our kids about the latest techno thing, we need to teach our students concepts, like organization and communication, and then show them how technology can enhance their organization and communication skills.

Communication is easy – in a sense – as our kids do that all the time.  I’m often amazed how I will call a student, leave a voice mail, and not even ten seconds later get a text that says, “Wuz up?”  “Wuz up” is I want you to answer your phone, or listen to the voice mail, or call me back or both.  Kids have become so dependent on texting that there is a huge disconnect between appropriate social behavior and person to person interaction.  Don’t get me wrong, I think texting is a great tool and very useful, but there is a time and a place to talk to people or sit down face to face.  That is how connections are made, friendships are strengthened, and relationships grow stronger.

Connections are very important, kids expect, as do their parents, to be connected all the time now, especially with cell phones.  As such, social media needs to play a huge part in the class room.  Students are already there, so let’s go there too.  Twitter – send one tweet a day about homework, remember your book, test today, what your assignment will be that afternoon or links to sources on the web.  Connect with your students both in the class room and outside the class room, show them the value of having a good personal and technical relationship.

I have two primary sources of organization, Google Calendar and Evernote.  I use these to teach my kids how to set reminders, set alarms for reminders and take great notes.  If they have a smart phone, and over 30% of them do, they always have a way to take notes, keep track of information and set up their calendar to remind them of important deadlines.  I have so many students who lose notebooks and forget what they need for class, but if I can teach them how to use the calendar on their phone, and be consistent, that number goes down.  Even more, with Twitter, I noticed my students communicating more and more within the class making forgetfulness a thing of the past.

Teach kids about technology they will use.  Sure, the next big thing is exciting, shiny and new; but without the proper foundation of skills, the next big thing is only as exciting as hitting a hair brush on a wooden island.

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