Can I blog a complaint?

My son is a sixth grader in a district where I don’t teach, so I always try to pry info out of him about what he is up to (no small feat, with a 12 year old boy). I’m interested, and yes, sort of competitive, too.  Yesterday, I asked him how his six-week “exploratory” block in technology went for him. My question came on the heels of his shocking (to me) remark that “Tomorrow, we get to play video games on the computers for 48 minutes.”

Now, I know that 12 year olds are not always that reliable for the entire tale, so I listened to him explain what they did for six weeks. But even after some thorough grilling, it became clear that “technology” is the wrong word for this exploratory block.

They learned some typing skills and, as he said, “He taught us how to do shortcuts in Microsoft Word …. and we played online games.”

And then, “Oh, he showed us how to put an image in Word. But we all already knew how to do that.”

“And if you didn’t, it would take you … what …. five seconds to figure it out?” is what I muttered back.

Shortcuts for Word? That’s technology in the classroom? I am beside myself with frustration that this is the best exposure to technology offered to a sixth grader? I’ll bet that curriculum is 10 years old and hasn’t changed a bit since then. What about creating? Composing? Publishing? Exploring (not games)? Web 2.0? There is a movement underway, folks, and if you can yourself a technology teacher, you better get on board.

I do show my own children a lot of technology (although I should write about that someday now that he is entering the ‘Can I have a Facebook’  phase and we try –not always successfully — to balance access to our technology with limited screen time). Here at home, we make movies, create music and do more than most, I am sure.

But what about those other kids who don’t have parents who are teachers into technology? What about them? Shortcuts and image placement in Word is the best we can do for them? I’d even be happy if the gaming was them inventing their own games or something of value. Instead, they are going to sites that are probably bombarded with advertisements in order to play a simplistic flash game.

Peace (in a huge sigh),

  1. Amazing! What’s wonderful for your son is that he’s growing up in a household where technology is being used in a way that really does something for your lives. In 6th grade, surely they could be learning to get around on the Web site, to find information that’s interesting and reliable, to check things out so that they can continue to learn how awesome the Internet can be to learn, and connect, and create. I was in a school last semester where students were creating book covers the same way I used to – by cutting stuff out of magazines and pasting it onto construction paper. Why not learn to create a short video or slideshow, or – anything, like you mentioned?

    Your son will be fine, I’m sure, though you’ll be doing the work of tech teachers. But for a lot of kids, they’ll continue to use technology for the games and social networking, missing out on the tools of creation and information-finding that really is necessary (and enjoyable). And they won’t get it from anywhere else.

  2. I’m sighing for you too…it is very tough to be a teacher who really tries to impart real-world applications for things in the classroom and you know that your own children are not a part of that same philosophy. When I whine about these things to my hubby, he tries to buoy me up with how I can help our children at home (which I do…but still!). Keep doing the great things you do in the classroom (and those students who cross your path will be all the better!) and impart what you can at home (I know that you already do). That’s about all you can do. *sigh*

  3. Sadly it doesn’t matter where I travel that these types of examples are the norm not the exception. And if technology is being used it is often for the sake of it as opposed to being used well. Good use of technology is the exemption not the rule — but it is slowly improving as more educators are being introduced to how it can empower learning.

    My story doesn’t relate to them actually using the tehnology but making bad assumptions about what students know and how they use it. This made me sighed last year when my son in Year 9 had to answer the question by pretending they were writing a blog post (on paper off course) for their exam. Prior to the exam the Year 9 teachers did discuss it with all the students as the person who set the exam said we’ll get them to write in a style of a blog post because all kids of this age definitely know what a blog is and what it means to write in that style, Totally crazy! Exam being set by a teacher who didn’t understand what blogging is, getting students to write on paper as if it was a blog post, while students didn’t know what blogs are and had no idea what that meant.

  4. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people make the assumption that kids are digitally literate simply because they know how to ‘insert an image’, MSN their friends, or write a Facebook post. To me, that’s like saying that kids are ‘textually literate’ because they can paste a photo on a piece of paper, pass notes to their friends in class, or write graffiti on the wall of the bathroom.

    The thing is, a lot of teachers are still pretty uncomfortable with technology. I recently worked with someone who referred to it like the enemy — in her view, it’s unreliable (so no lesson should depend upon it); it’s addictive (distracting students away from their work); it’s a crutch that teachers use to ‘entertain’ their students; and it’s a security/personal identity threat. Oh, and by the way, this teacher was born after 1980, so she would be labelled by some as a ‘digital native’.

    I also sigh with you.

    P.S. “Teaching the New Writing” — great book!!

  5. Pingback: ELT @ traceyo » What is digital literacy?

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