Thursday, July 17, 2014

My how times -- and learning -- has changed

On this, the penultimate day of our EMWP summer institute, we celebrated with a few authors who came to visit room 320 at the Eastern Michigan University Student Center. One of the authors who came to visit was Marquin Parks, teacher and author of the Wrinkles Wallace series. He was gracious enough to read us a snippet of book two of Wrinkles Wallace and what I was immediately struck by, was that he didn't pull out a binder of printed pages or even a laptop computer from which to read to us. Instead, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his smartphone. I'm still in awe of how the landscape of reading and learning has changed so drastically in the past five years. To know that the depth and breadth of human knowledge can now fit inside your pocket is both exciting, but also a huge responsibility -- one that teachers can't ignore, and should also utilize in their own classrooms.

This idea hit home even further when, as Marquin was reading, he stopped and said in mock annoyance, "Hey stop tweeting! I keep getting notifications while I'm reading and it's messing me up."
Marquin reads to us from a draft of book two of Wrinkles Wallace... on his Smartphone

As we all laughed I started thinking how, despite its humor, this was also a really poignant moment at the same time. Marquin wasn't mad that we were tweeting because he thought we weren't paying attention. He was irritated because we WERE paying attention but due to our enthusiasm with wanting to share his wisdom with the world, his Twitter feed was blowing up and it was distracting him.

So the question is, how do we navigate those distractions while also honoring the value that these digital tools bring into our classrooms? It's an ever evolving process but one that we have to acknowledge. As a teacher, I understand that technology is a tool and not the curriculum and there are still ways to teach without it, but I also know that we need to meet students where they are, and where they are is on smartphones and tablet computers. I am shirking my responsibility as an educator if I don’t help guide students in living responsible digital lives. We should be helping them navigate this digital landscape, not setting them adrift on a ship all alone, left to their own.... wait for it... devices.

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