Sunday, March 8, 2015

Slice of Life Story Challenge - What I Know For Sure - DigiLit Sunday and Technology

     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:
Rishi    Noah    Quinn    Amrith    Megan    Maya
     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!


  1. I understand totally. Even my own children did not grow up with what is available today. When I first started using technology in my teaching in the mid-90's, I had so much to teach. Most of my students didn't have home computers. They didn't even know what a mouse was (the tech kind, anyway.) Now my nephew is using Kahn Academy to learn computer programming and he's 10! I hope parents today find a balance. Kids need nature and now we have to organize nature for them. My comment is rambling, too.

    1. Libby and I were talking about the fact that she didn't grow up with all that technology either. It's amazing how fast it came about!

  2. It's an exciting time we live in with all of these tools around us. It can be scary too. I guess, the key for me is balance. We have laptops and there are days when we use notebooks and technology. Other days we are seeped in technology. I like that we have the choice. Thanks for your thoughts!!! Made me think!

  3. First--I love how you decided to have a very, real world, authentic theme for your blog! That is genius.

    Second--I agree. My husband and I talk about this so much. I love computers/technology advancements and wouldn't want those taken away from me. However, I am also very happy that my 2 year old only wants her "tablet" about 10 minutes in a day...only to do her puzzles. She does not care for shows and movies and I love that her little imagination keeps her fueled. I truly hope that continues!

    Third--I really wish that I had that much access to technology!

  4. This is such an important topic for us to be thinking about and talking about, especially with the parents of our kids. Our kids have access to so much technology, but not so much unstructured time to just be outdoors and be. I think they are losing out on so much.

  5. Yes, I ramble on this topic as well! I have researched what this does to developing brains and always keep that at the forefront of my mind. Yet, I want to be proactive in teaching my students what to do, so they are digital citizens from the beginning. I love the connections, ease, and fun that comes with the technology. I worry so much about the addictive qualities, the loss of time to play outside, etc. Thanks for giving me more thoughts to think about on this topic.

  6. I have a student who has chosen to study the effects of technology on student learning. She is very interested in the changes that might be happening. It will always be hard to go back I guess. I remember our first computer and how very excited I was to be able to type (and correct errors) so easily. I used a typewriter too, Holly, still have my old college one & take it in for my students to use once in a while. I wish they would play more and some do, but many are very schedules with lessons and sports. Their time is not really theirs (middle school 6, 7, 8). I loved all your pieces about growing up when you wrote last year, hope that my grandchildren get some of that in part of their lives. I love your ramble...

  7. Ambivalent - excellent fit. There is so much that technology does to connect us, at least to the outside world. And for this I am incredibly grateful! But technology may also separate us, from real, kinesthetic experiences. It may separate us from the rewards of struggle, the benefits of honest, responsible discussion, and if we are not careful, it may separate us from the relationships closest to us. When we are so connected to people "out there" that we give scant attention to the people "right here", technology does not serve us well. That is part of our need to model responsible usage in our own practice and in our own daily lives.

  8. Holly, such an important topic, and such a difficult one to begin to address. Your paragraph about "technology" when you were a kid could very easily describe my childhood/teenage years. We played outside, watched television when the game shows, Saturday cartoons, or holiday specials were on, played games we "made up" or games bought from the store. I read A LOT.

    Kids today can't even imagine a life like that, and to be honest, it's hard for me to "imagine" a life without the technology I've grown accustomed to, either. The world is zipping along, changing at such a pace that we can't keep up.

    I'm not sure what the "fallout"-- and I hope that's NOT the best term for it-- will be in 10 or 20 years and we see what all this "progress" has gotten us. I pray whatever good and bad comes from it, we will learn and make it better.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Holly! :)

  9. Replies
    1. We played and played the yard, in the fields, in the gully, in the barn...
      We seem to have to be looking at something in our hand too often now...even when we are with our friends and family...