It's Day 8 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, started by Two Writing Teachers. I am writing around the theme topic of "What I Know For Sure." (See Day 1 for a full explanation.)
Margaret Simon hosts a Sunday Link Up for posts about digital literacy at her blog to challenge us to share our technology journeys.
My students are participating in the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge, and I've noticed some of them have been writing about technology. Here are a few examples:
I am fortunate to teach in a district where we have access to plenty of technology. I have a Chromebook cart with 30 Chromebooks, available to us at all times. We're a Google district, and we all have Promethean boards, ceiling projectors, and a speaker system. Many of my students have personal devices and are social media users. They are blogging on Kidblog, and I have kids who are much more tech savvy than I am. We have had many conversations about our personal digital brands and footprints, responsibilities, and values. I have students who are addicted to Minecraft and other computer and video games and those who read on Kindles and iPads. When told that our Chromebooks were unavailable during PARCC testing and assignments had to be written and turned in on paper, there were freak outs. "We have to write these on PAPER?!"
All this availability of technology is mind-blowing. When I think back on my childhood, teen, and college years, I marvel at how fast things have changed. I grew up with only several channels on television, MTV was just appearing when I was in high school (but I could only watch it at friends' houses since we never got cable), and there were no cell phones, laptops, or iPads. I typed my college papers on a typewriter. At least it was electric! Our exposure to the outside world was limited to newspapers and a couple network news programs. It's daunting what kids are expected to handle and process in the 21st Century. We are in the midst of PARCC testing, so all of our 5th and 6th graders at all ability levels are expected to take a high-stakes test using fairly advanced technology tools. They are also expected to filter readily accessible pornography, avoid plagiarism, and handle cyber-bullying. They are exposed to 24-hour world news and are bombarded with media all the time.
When I was 10 and 11, I was playing in the backyard and woods for hours, riding my horse, and feeding our animals. I had limited organized activities. I only participated in 4-H and soccer. Soccer was low-key. We had practices locally a couple evenings a week. We didn't travel or pay expensive trainers. We had fun. 4-H was about raising animals and speaking to judges about our heads, hands, hearts, and health. We ate dinners as a family, and if we wanted to talk to each other it had to be in person or over a phone attached to the wall. We lived in the country, so I didn't drive much. When we got home after school and work, we stayed home. I went to the library and read lots of books. I played. I imagined. I had very few worries or anxieties.
I am not against technology. I have enjoyed using it immensely and love to learn new things about it. I think it can be highly creative. I see many benefits of Google in the classroom, and I love blogging and connecting on social media. In the literacy classroom, technology has brought in authors, other teachers, and other students to us through Twitter and Skype. My PLN includes many people I've connected with through social media. Excellent professional development is readily accessible and free on Twitter and through blogging. More voices than ever are heard out on the Internet. Our kids need to use and become experts at technology because so many careers will require it. Technology has improved many fields of expertise. It has opened the world to us and information is at our fingertips. Technology is good when used positively.
However, I don't know what all this exposure to a high-stakes, technological, and information/entertainment hyper world is going to mean to young people growing up. Will they be better or worse off? Or is that even a fair question? It's a different world from the one I grew up in, that's for sure.
What I Know For Sure: Occasionally, I miss simpler times. I loved that my childhood was simple and playful. I liked that my family spent time together, whether it was talking, working side by side, hanging out outdoors, fishing, hunting, playing games, eating, or exploring. I liked that we interacted instead of texting or playing games on our phones when together. I liked that my friends and I got together in real life, not just on social media, and I didn't have to worry about cyber-bullying. I liked that I had a lot of free time. I enjoyed using my imagination and day-dreaming. Childhood is meant to be more about play and less about stress and screens.
Disclaimer: This post rambled a little; I didn't even know what direction I was going in when writing it. I have so many mixed feelings about technology. I could just as easily write a "What I Know For Sure" paragraph about the wonderful things about technology. Maybe I will. Maybe I won't. See?! So ambivalent!