Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where is this Digital Nation?

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Digital Natives, besides being the most recent education buzz words, is the recognition of where our students live.  Laptops loaded with games, Facebook, email, and  Skype all going at once will be sitting on the laps of students who also have their phone next to them to receive the latest gossip from friends via text.

It isn't how most of us remember childhood.  Back in the old days, why I remember actually having to go across the street to spend time with my friends.  And if we wanted to see or talk to other friends we walked.  I know...you are finishing the story...both ways up hill in the driving snow. (Well, that last part might be a lie...I grew up in Texas.)

This huge influx of information has changed things. I first started thinking about this when videos like this began popping up on the internet several years ago.

How do you teach a generation that is not growing up the way we did? What skills become most important in a market that changes monthly?  Those are the million dollar questions.

I don't have the answers.  I know you are disappointed.

I do know that we have to be open to change to model that for our students.  I know that the traditional method of teaching won't do it. We have to do better, and be ready to think about teaching differently.

In the school I teach at a group of volunteer teachers decided to work together to see what we could do to teach better and to grow as professionals.  As a new professional learning community we decided that we would do a books study, Teaching Digital Natives Partnering for Real Learning.
Buy it here
I wasn't too thrilled about this.  Book studies are fine but I wasn't sure there would be anything I would really gain from this particular book.  I was wrong.  It has happened before. The problem I think was that I was over focused on the "Digital Natives" part in the title. I should have been excited to learn more about learning about how to more efficiently apply partnering techniques in my class.

Partnering is not new, it is also known as project based learning.  This will help explain it...

Challenge Based Learning - Resilience from Adam Brice on Vimeo.

In the video the students are responsible for deciding how to think globally and apply the theme of resilience. The students learn that they don't have to wait to be the difference the world needs, that they can do it now.

Partnering is about teachers creating relationships with their students where both have responsibility in the learning.  They do this by knowing each student and their passions.  Then having students connect the material they are learning about to what they feel most passionate.

This different type of relationship cannot be done through traditional means.  Teachers must "step off the stage" acknowledging that students can get the same amount of information and learn the skills by answering guiding questions instead of watching a PowerPoint or listening to a lecture. To most of us this is not a comfortable change.  Then again some of us hate any kind of change.

The series of post to come will be based on the pedagogy introduced by Marc Prensky. They will include the ideas from his book and how we as a group are doing our best to change and grow as teachers of the digital native.  We encourage you to join us in this change and welcome your communication, ideas and questions.