Monday, February 13, 2012

Digital Natives, Digital Texts, Digital World

I was in seventh grade when we got our first personal computer.  It was a behemoth IBM, in its first year of production.  My crafty dad made me read the word processor manual and write a cheat sheet for family use.  (I still remember -- ^KD = save in WordStar circa 1984.) 

By the time I started high school, I composed all of my papers on the computer.  The ability to type quickly and edit instantly has greatly affected my writing process.

I don't think I had an email account until I was grown and out of college.  I am still a very reluctant texter.  I waste too much time on facebook, but I never tweet.
My kids learned how to use a mouse at two.  They are now four and six.  They play Angry Birds on my cell phone and DS in restaurants with slow service.

The college students I teach were mostly born in the 1990s.  One thing I quickly realized was that, thanks to texting and email and facebook and twitter, most of them actually spend a significant portion of their day WRITING -- willingly, for pleasure.  Perhaps texting is going to make punctuation obsolete, but on the other hand... surely there's some good to be harnessed from this situation.

I started teaching at a new school last semester, and my classroom now has a dedicated computer lab.  I've always had students write frequently in class, of course, but incorporating the computers has presented both an opportunity and a challenge.

The ability to do library research from the classroom is the most obvious advantage to having classroom computers.  Grammar quizzes can be given online, of course; but I am looking for ways to excite students, not bore them to death.

I have thus been experimenting with a variety of technologies and new assignments.  Last semester I used a status update exercise to get students thinking about topic selection and audience.  I am just starting to learn how to get students working on collaborative written projects -- wikis and blogs through Blackboard, as well as group responses through google docs.   Using youtube to find examples of commercials exhibiting logical fallacies has also been entertaining.

Today's digital natives grow up in a world completely different from ours.  As ebooks change the experience of reading (but not as drastically as one might think), so the new technologies present many more options for effectively engaging students.

If any teachers have advice or expertise in this area to share, we are all ears.

In the meantime, don't forget to enter our latest Teaching Authors Book Giveaway

Have a great week! --Jeanne Marie


Linda at teacherdance said...

I just taught an online tools class to some middle school aged students at my school (they have some choice classes at certain times during the week). I found that all of them were familiar with much online & were so eager to put more to use. Now it really is up to the teachers to learn and access and create assignments to use these tools. One that we loved using so we could communicate across the group often was Diigo-easy to set up & to share in this application. Other popular ones were Evernote and the several tools available for brainstorming & organizing like There is so much available.

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Linda, that sounds like an awesome class. Thanks for sharing some of the tools you used -- I had not heard of some of them and will definitely be checking them out!