Saturday, October 24, 2009

Why Does This Video Bother Me So Much?

I have watched the following video several times and each time I watch it I feel a new emotion.  I have felt sad, angry, disappointed, proud, and bewildered. 

Watch with me and we'll talk about it.

It makes me sad that these students aren't reading books.  It angers me that they're spending so much time on Facebook or their cell phones or writing email.  I'm disappointed that these student live in a digital world, but their schools and teachers don't.  I'm proud that some teachers and students are trying to change things, but bewildered as to how their going to accomplish it. 

School budgets are so limited.  Teachers are losing jobs as I write this.  In most schools there exists only two or three computer labs for all the students.  My school had a computer lab in the math department for the students taking programming classes.  There was another lab in the business department for students taking accounting and computer applications courses.  There were a few computers in the library and each teacher had one in his or her room.  Classroom computers were for teacher use...lesson plans, grades, attendance, student reports, and emails.  Only a few teachers had display hardware attached to their computers. Many times I had thirty students gathered around the one 12-inch monitor that sat on my desk.  Teachers could take their classes to a computer lab, but only when a class was not scheduled for that time.

The situation for many students was just as bad at home.  I would guess that maybe 60% of my students had computers at home.  The other 40% could use computers at the public library, but unfortunately, they were the least likely to. 

Yes, these children live in a digital world.  They may only write 42 pages for a class, but send 500 emails.  They may take their computers to class, but use it for Facebook.  They may spend 2 hours on their cell phones.  But is this the best use of their time?

I knew as a teacher that I was preparing these students for the future.  I knew that they may very likely have a job I had never heard of or that didn't exist at the time.  I knew that to prepare them for that digital world, they needed to have basic skills.  Those skills included the ability to read and write, to do math, to think, to analyze, and to evaluate. Those are the skills that would prepare them for whatever might be in their futures.

However, I still think those skills can be taught with paper, pencil, books, and a chalkboard. 

If  a student is fortunate enough to attend a school that is technologically advanced or if they are wealthy enough to have that technology at home, they will be able to take those pencil, paper, and book skills and apply them to that digital world.  The students who are not that fortunate may be behind digitally, but they will still have learned to read, write, think, analyze, and evaluate. 

We are living in an age of transition.  We have to accomodate both worlds...the digital and non-digital.  It reminds me of teaching measurements in math classes.  We were always told that once the United States switched to metric, we would be able to stop teaching the customary system of inches, feet, pounds, and cups.  I taught for 32 years and had to teach both systems for the entire time.  That complete switch to metrics never took place.  I wonder if the same will be true for digital.

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