Wednesday, October 22, 2008

15 year olds

I was reading the PBS Media Infusion blog this a.m. because the headline caught my eye... Meeting the Needs of Adolescent Learners with Media and Technology. I wondered how many secondary teachers reading that headline bristled. These days it seems Adolescent Learners = Intuitive Media and Technology. It is second nature to them. It is an extra 2 or 3 steps for most of us.

Let's see... a 15 year old... born in 1993 right? Am I doing the math correctly? It is 2008 last time I checked :) but those who know me well know how math challenged I am. So... in 1993 I was teaching special education and still doing IEPs on NCR paper... remember that stuff? You would practically break a hand trying to press hard enough to write 6 copies at once. I would take my students to the Apple IIE lab - the old computers - to play things like Oregon Trail - on Fridays for a break. The TV/VCR carts were coveted by the coaches headed off to games. The Mac Classics were reserved for the school newspaper and yearbook classes. We still had a card catalog in the library. But... these guys... these 15 year olds were still babies.

Fast forward 5 years to kindergarten - these kids had parents who were probably just starting to use email for work and the internet to get tips and tricks on parenting. I think it was in 1998 I was working on my 2nd yearbook with a class of students and it was all digital EXCEPT for the photos - that technology was still too expensive. Barney was all the rage though with these kids headed to school for the first time, right?

Fast forward 5 more years and these kids are now 4th graders - 2003. The internet is everywhere. Teachers are streaming video segments maybe if they have access to projectors and even better might get a chance to touch a SmartBoard. These are the kids going home to watch Spongebob and Nick. They play with PS2s. They probably can help their parents with their cell phones - but cell phones are probably mostly still in the high school... not yet made it to the "latch-key kids". Isn't 2003 still pre-iPod boom.

2008. 15 years old. Headphones in ears. Backpacks designed to sport MP3 players with a headphone hole. Texting has its own grammatical structure. Digital photography is everywhere and anywhere. Digital video is anywhere and everywhere too. So look around your classroom... what items do you have in your teaching that are part of this revolution that occurred while we were busy standing at the copy machine and worrying about highly qualified paperwork. In our effort to make sure everything is standards based and working to help students pass standardized tests, technology quadrupled its stronghold.

So what are you doing to make sure - not only is your curriculum rigorous... but is it relevant? Do these 15 year olds wake up in the morning and get excited about what you have to say and share with them? Do you know the latest abbreviations to interpret the notes in class? Do you ever allow your students to use the computers they carry around in their pockets (aka cell phones) as calculators and collaborative tools? Do you let anyone else touch the computer in your classroom besides you? If you need help knowing how to find relevant digital content, you might go to a sight like or and ask a 15 year old to help you search, download, and even stream video or "play" with flash interactives. Better yet, have them assist you in posting a comment to this blog, or help you set up a class blog... and encourage the discussion beyond the walls of your classroom.

We have one chance to get these kids ready for the real world. The media is all around them. It is all around all of us. Isn't it up to us to help them interpret it appropriately and provide them with the proper filters to understand credible sources? Isn't it up to us to show them we are learning along with them and they have something they can teach us as well?

© FNO Press, 2004

Copyright Policy: While the copyright for this cartoon by Jerry King belongs to From Now On, readers may distribute and republish provided they reproduce the credit with a link to Jerry's Web site and to From Now On


bigd Flanagan said...

Great points. How the world in education moves along at a steady clip. I know of some teachers that have started to use the students cell phones for texting activities during a group review.

In these lean economic times, its always education that is the first to get cut. Lets use the technology that our students bring into the classroom and pay for thmnselves. Well, their families anyway.

Now about that pesky digital divide.....

Kingston1 said...


I can't see what the picture is. All I see is a white box with a red X.


Gail said...

You are right on the money. We (education) have really come a long way with technology. It has a long way to go too. Education's job is responsible for teaching students meaningful skills to integrate the information they learn into useful context. Recently at both the Innovative Learning Conference and the High School Reform Conferences the overarching themes were that we have 21st century learners and we need to embrace the tools that are an integral part of "their" world and provide them with opportunities to assimilate them (web 2.0 tools blogging, wikis, twitter among many others) that bring them from simply reaching out to retrieve information to collaborating, creating and publishing their own content and translating that into learning. These 21st century tools and skills are essential to move their expertise in collaboration and problem solving beyond pencil and paper tasks in the classroom to really addressing the information and skills they will need beyond high school. It's an exciting horizon to reach for and uncomfortable for some teachers to over out of the center and allow themselves to become facilitators of the students' education. My students actually are taking online classes in my lab, as a part of their school day. Teachers on our campus are designing their own online classes and embracing the blog and the virtual world to move with their students to a new frontier of teaching and learning. However, its scary with the economy as it is that we may find uncertainty in the continuation of even basic programs and greater resistance expanding to newer ideas and technologies that will meet their current needs(both at home and at school.)

Kim Flack said...

Gail - I would love to have you share more about the online opportunities your teachers are promoting with your students - and any examples of blogging with students. I know my husband as a high school teacher collaborates with teachers that do blogs on the school intranet so as not to worry about the safety issues of public posting on the web.

Gail said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gail said...

Kim, here are just a few examples

College Prep Reading
Introduction reads...
This is a class blog designed for the inimitable students of Payson High School’s College Prep Reading class, whereby we shall collaboratively bask in the glories of reading and writing…and occasionally use slightly ornate or obsolete words such as “whereby” just to appear smart.
-Wendy Jones, Teacher

Oh, and a couple of our science teachers are developing their classes in their virtual world

Mrs. Adams, the Ecology Teacher has these sites:
Biology at

Take a peek and see the Ecology or Biology classes and you'll find them using discussion threads and various extension activities that are interactive on the site. They have even organized their group work in a secondary site.

Our Key Club meets during both lunch periods. Its really hard to communicate between the two. Now, both groups collaborate in a common Studeous site too.

We have a book study going on for Teachers' career ladder and some of our teachers are building a wiki for it. This interaction will familiarize them with the tool so that then they can transfer its application to their lessons (students.)

I am developing a class that will be provided in its entirety online as an alternative English elective for recovery seniors. (Pending board approval)Here is the introduction to my online English site. Please forgive some of the formatting. My colleagues and I are still playing with learning html to spruce up our content.

It’s really is exciting. I love watching the kids handle the tools and engage in what is so much apart of their world already. I really like watching the teachers so "on fire" for these new tools too. It staggers their imaginations sometimes that the kids are so computer literate and savy8-)

The students really seem to embrace having those tools in the classroom especially with the opportunity to use them in a variety of learning venues. We aren't using cell phones but with the wiki you can add Google gadgets that have the ability to send texts to their cell phones, or email all... we encourage them to use their phones as planners (they can put assignments and due dates in there, and they are much more likely to see and/or pay attention to them.

Gail said...

One final thought, Kim. These are closed sites available to participate by invitation only.(You can see but you can't participate or generate information about the participants without authorization from the administrator.)

Unfortunately, we do not have an intranet environment available to use. It is on the list for our district's technology committee to confront and evaluate for our school.

These are some of the discussions that emanate from the use of new open technologies for students and schools. Safety is definitely a big issue, and we actively seek to insure that our student's safety is always protected.