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 www.pbs.org/teachers or www.teachersdomain.org 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?