The New York Times ran a piece Sunday titled Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. The article discusses the challenges and opportunities new technologies provide for students and educators.
Students are frequently distracted from their school work by texting, gaming, and websites such as Facebook and YouTube. Yet technology also opens up new ways of learning and offers exposure to ideas and possibilities students would not otherwise encounter.
The article follows one student in particular, Vishal Singh, a senior at Woodside High School in Redwood City, California. Despite being a bright student, Singh’s grades have dropped recently due to his tendency to procrastinate on Facebook and YouTube. He sums up the dilemma facing both students and teachers.
“If it weren’t for the Internet, I’d focus more on school and be doing better academically,” he says. But thanks to the Internet, he says, he has discovered and pursued his passion: filmmaking. Without the Internet, “I also wouldn’t know what I want to do with my life.”
The principal at Woodside High, David Reilly, chooses to see technology as a way to reach out to and engage with students. He has introduced popular classes such as an audio class where students use digital tools to compose and record music.
Some disagree with Reilly’s approach and advocate strict prohibitions on cell phones and other technologies at schools, but more and more educators are realizing it’s more practical to use students’ natural affinity for technology to enhance learning.
Recently The New York Times and its Learning Network requested that teachers “submit videos on how the use of technology has changed the way they teach.” Many educators submitted videos. You can watch the Times’ top picks: Teachers’ Views on Technology in the Classroom.
Two of the chosen videos come from Mumbai, India and Morristown, New Jersey.
The American School of Bombay, Mumbai, India
Last year a class at the school used Skype video conferencing to link up with a school in Australia to discuss the global implications of racism. After the video conference, students met up using Google Docs and its instant messaging feature to answer questions and converse with one another. (Both Skype and Google Docs are free services you can you use in your classroom.)
Morristown High School, New Jersey
At Morristown High an American Studies class is using iPads to read, highlight, and annotate Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. The teacher, Katy Barnicle, says, “Over the years I’ve realized that I don’t necessarily need to know all the outcomes. I can have the kids teach me and we can learn alongside of each other.” One eleventh grader comments that his iPad helps him stay organized because he can access everything he needs on one device instead of carrying a backpack with a planner and multiple binders and text books.
How has technology impacted how you teach? Share in the comments.