Should students be tweeting during class? Reading emails? Logging on to Facebook? Checking the news?
Chances are, you answered something to the effect of, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”
I’d be inclined to agree with you too, especially after reading this article a few weeks ago from NPR. Shortly after that however, one of my classmates posted a link to this TED Talks video on Facebook and it made me reconsider my initial, knee jerk reaction.
On one hand, I agree with Barbara King (who wrote the NPR article) that students’ attentions can be compromised when split between lecture and the lure of technology at their fingertips.
On the other hand, as Lisa Nielsen (from the TED Talks video) points out, technology is a very real part of students’ lives. They are from a highly technological, gadget filled generation that learned to work a computer in Kindergarten. By contrast, computers didn’t become a regular part of my educational experience until high school. I didn’t even own one until college. I’m not even to an age where I could be the mother of a high school or even upper middle school student and the difference between the world they have grown up in and the one I did is markedly different. So while it may be difficult for myself and other, even older educators to comprehend, these students are use to and (contrary to how it seems sometimes) quite adept at multitasking.
One of the first classes I took for my grad program was taught by the head of the department. I can still remember my surprise when he not only encouraged us to bring knitting and crocheting with us if we were so inclined, he also encouraged tweeting during the lecture. He assigned a hashtag for our class and even had Tweetdeck open on his laptop right on the lectern podium. Throughout the lecture he would peek at his Twitter feed and address any questions or comments that came up as he went. He monitored it after class as well making it a great way to contact him for questions and concerns that popped up later. It became a great resource for all of us and I still knit when listening to audio or video lectures to this day.
Of course, this example is from the graduate level and one could argue that undergrad students, teens, and especially tweens aren’t ready for that kind of technology freedom in the classroom. (Although in my experience kids will often rise up to the challenge and surprise you when presented with the opportunity to be more responsible). In the end, each of us needs to run our classrooms they way we see fit, the way that allows us to be the best educator we can be for our students. If for some of us that means sticking to “traditional” ways of teaching and declining to use and allow social tools in the classroom that is fine. But (you knew there was going to be a but didn’t you) expelling social networking tools and other technologies from the classroom shouldn’t be a knee jerk reaction. Before committing to that decision, take some time to explore the tools available and consider if some of them might not make a valuable addition to your curriculum and your classroom. Then include them in whatever way you feel is best (even if that means in no way at all).
Have any technology faves you’d like to share? How about tips and tricks for incorporating them into the classroom?