Sometimes as I write about what I am teaching my students in the high school, it probably makes it seem as if that is a one-way street. The truth of the matter is that it is often a two-way conversation that is very healthy. I thought I would write about a few of the things I have learned from the students I teach:
1. They neither know or care what web 2.0, cloud computing, or social media are. These need to be concepts I teach. They do, however, understand instantly how they operate once the terms are explained.
Conclusion?: We care far more about categorization and buzzwords than they do, but they are probably far more capable of understanding the state of current media technology.
2. They need to be taught e-mail. Since the current student age group skipped over email as an entry-level technology skill they need to be taught it. They also need to be shown that the generation ahead of them uses e-mail daily, even hourly, to conduct business, and once they understand that, they become very willing to learn how to use it.
Conclusion?: We assume if we use it, and it is computer-driven, they must also. Not at all true.
3. The primary computer most of them use is their phone or handheld device. They may not be any better at working a Mac of PC than the average grandparent. They do know, however, how to access information, communicate, and create content from even the most basic web-enabled phone.
Conclusion?: Computer classes are still relevant?
4. They can text faster than they can type. I recently asked students to type up a paragraph to email to me, and one kid asked if he could just text it to me since he couldn’t type. I said yes. He pulled out a mobile phone and typed a paragraph, fairly well edited, in about 2 minutes. When I discussed this phenomenon with the whole class, most students admitted that they could text much faster, and more accurately, than they can type. In fact, some students also admitted to writing up essays via text.
Conclusion?: Either we as educators had better start allowing full use of electronic devices in school (and in business), or start pushing keyboarding more. Related question: What will these folks expect to use to type up their TPS reports?
5. Technology is not really a skill to them, it is a native language. I know that sounds cliche, but I doubt most educators truly get it. I know I usually do not. When we have talked about something as simplistic as the yellow pages, or an almanac, there is just a language barrier that goes beyond naivete or the foolishness of youth. I imagine it is akin to the way my generation looked and sounded when our parents or grandparents discussed such topics as milking cows or baking bread from scratch.
Conclusion?: We need to do more listening than talking when it comes to tech skills. They do need current skills, and that will require some of the technology we currently understand, but we should probably start imagining what this generation will prefer when they run the world.
To sum up, I think I have learned far more from my students than I have learned on my own, and it far exceeds anything I have been taught from school in-services. We keep thinking of ways to help the current generation of school children learn technology we know how to use, but we are forgetting the fact that this generation will develop its own way of doing things, with technology current to their time. All we need to do is help them understand how to take skills they may already understand, and apply them in positive, productive, settings relevant to the working world.