Thursday, January 23, 2014

Waiting For Permission to be Awesome!

A Slow Start, and Then...

The first signs of success came this week in our Wildcat Internet Cafe' enrichment. Once we got past the issues we were having with device compatibility, students remembering passwords, and the constant revolving door of new students into our class, we were able to begin the creative process using technology tools to share knowledge.

Imagine a blank stare from a kid with a well-lit but equally blank screen from an iPad. I would never have believed these two images would exist in the same space. I have heard the term "digital natives" in referring to our students' generation -- students who grew up with access to technology from the womb. This may be pretty accurate in terms of access, but as we have found, the students in our little enrichment have up until recently lacked the spark to accept that learning can be in their own hands. In general, I have known students, well most students, come equipped with a keen sense of creativity. The first days of the enrichment brought a true reality check. Students struggled with the use of technology as a tool as opposed to more natural tasks such as texting and game playing.

The challenge of getting our students to create and share their knowledge was yet another roadblock that we needed to work through. It finally occurred to me after seeing the blank stares on the faces of our students -- in my own words but borrowed from a popular saying I have heard -- kids were waiting for permission to be awesome! Along with the challenge of using technology, our students appeared to be waiting for a teacher to feed them knowledge, for somebody to guide them through what was to be learned. Our students appeared to be in unfamiliar territory. Just like the technological roadblocks presented during the first days of this enrichment activity, we were able to sort through and find solutions. A big help in creating this newly found awesome was we allowed ourselves the freedom to be more flexible as to what content was covered, as students were basically in charge of  their own learning, the sky was the limit. This obviously would be a bit different given a content area classroom perhaps, but none-the-less students found themselves engaged in learning which was a beacon of hope going off, and it was bright! So far, there have been some very cool outcomes! Students have learned to utilize some technology tools, they have begun to create for a larger audience, and they are taking charge of their own learning.

A Few Ways We Were Able to Get Kids to Be Awesome

  1. First, students were taught about the importance of being good digital citizens. Restrictions over use of technology were put into perspective. Safe environments for kids to practice these skills were created; students were redirected when necessary and praised for their positive contributions. 
  2. Students were encouraged to ask themselves, "What do I want to learn?" 
  3. Students were introduced to a menu of tools they could use to convey their messages (blogs, video creation, infographic design tools, PowToon presentations, comic creations.) Students then worked together and taught each other how to use the tools.
  4. Lastly, as teachers, we spent very little time teaching. The kids were in charge of their own learning, causing engagement to go through the roof!

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