Thursday, February 18, 2016

Get Out of Their Way

It is critical that we build a foundation in all of our educational content areas.  In Math, we teach whole numbers, fractions, and add, subtract, divide and of course the multiplication tables.  In ELA, we teach our students sight words, compound words, sentence structure and on to basic writing.  It’s the same with Social Studies and Science, Physical Education, Career Courses and Music.  So why do we assume that students know all of the basics for using technology?  Some might say that the students now are so much more familiar with technology and use it all the time.  Partly true, but it doesn’t apply equally to all of our young people.

We should try to steer our efforts toward the technology basics, and there are some things we need to be sure to cover, especially Digital Citizenship.  Too many of our students already have multiple Social Media accounts, and in reality, many are not ready to use them appropriately.  Well, many adults don’t use them appropriately for that matter.

But as we guide our student population down the path toward computer basics and digital citizenship, let’s be careful to NOT overstep our bounds…and be too rigid in our assignments.  Yes, direct students to be mindful of others’ feelings on social media.  Yes, warn students of the dangers of putting too much personal information out there for those with mal intent might want to use.  Yes, reinforce the no-bullying policy.  Yes, remind students that they are creating a “digital footprint” as they travel the cyber world.  Yes, reinforce using good grammar, correct spelling and punctuation. Yes, give students as much opportunity as possible to practice with laptops, so that they are familiar with the keys and the functions of the laptops.  Teach them to write…teach them how to drag and drop files and folders…teach them how to input files…teach them how to save, transfer and share files. No, we don’t want to impede their creativity or innovation.

When I was young, my mom used to let me use the cookie cutter to stamp out cookies in the shapes of animals and stars, and people.  The cookie cutter allowed me to make the cookie in a designated pattern, and pretty much they all looked alike. I liked the consistency.  However, when it comes to students, I prefer to avoid the “cookie cutter” approach.  All of the students don’t look like, don’t learn alike, and don’t produce academically like the next student.  We talk a lot about the techniques with differentiated instruction, and I think we need to be reminded to remember the differences in our kid’s personalities and styles as well.

As professional educators, it is imperative that we lead by example.  Try new tools, try new strategies that integrate technology, use the programs that are available by your district or company.  When we are teaching and facilitating, it is super important that we lead, guide and assist students…BUT…as soon as they catch the vision for their projects…as soon as you see the spark in their eye, and realize that they understand their assignment…that we are smart enough to “get out of their way.”  Give them some parameters, give them some structure, and give them a time frame…because that’s what they’ll see in the real world…but then, “get out of their way.”  Let them create.  Let them invent.  Let them be innovative.  Sometimes the more reluctant students, when given the opportunity to use computers, and be hands on…they will take on a new persona.  Give it a try…”get out of their way” and watch them shine. 

Follow the Georgetown County School District Tech Coaches on Twitter:
Keith @KTech8
Jenny @ItsThatJenny
Marc  @FrechetTech
Doug  @FreshD85

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