Posted by: Barinas | September 24, 2012

Tech-Spoiled

Yesterday I went to the restroom (hold your thoughts, this is not a setup for a yucky story or dirty joke LOL), and the lights were off.  “Hmmm… why didn’t the lights come on?” , I thought to myself.   A few seconds later, I just realized the silliness of my question.  “Pedro, not all restrooms have motion-detector light bulbs!”

Wow, how spoiled I’ve become.  It didn’t at first cross my mind to just turn the light switch the good ol’ fashion way.  This just makes me think about how technology changes us in such a way that we expect certain conveniences to come as a given.  If we extend this reality to the classroom, it shouldn’t surprise us that students are also conditioned by the accommodations of the Digital Age.  They do not wish for them, but expect them.

Case in point: yesterday I had the chance to observe a high school science class.   The teacher was teaching about the levels of organizations in living beings: from the microscopic animal cell all the way to 15-ton elephants and beyond.  To illustrate the differences in scale, he showed the class are really cool website called The Scale of the Universe (http://htwins.net/scale2).  If you go to the site, you’ll notice how amazing is the breadth of its scope!  I just told myself “wow, how cool it would’ve been to see this site back when I was in high school!”

As a biologist, I was pretty much amazed at the site’s visuals and treasure trove of information.  Then I looked around to read the students’ faces.  A few were impressed, but others were rather nonchalant.  What!  Your jaws should be hitting the floor!  All of you should be amazed by this!   But then I have to remember once again that kids nowadays probably have seen even more sophisticated visuals online.  This is just one of the many cool interactive websites they’ve seen.  As noted earlier, they now expect the motion sensor lights.

This is rather intimidating.  How can we as educators bring that sense of wonder in the classroom?  The tables have turned.  Now the kids are the ones impressing the adults.  They are the ones who are accustomed to the latest technologies and the conveniences they offer.  We are now facing a, shall we say, “tech-spoiled” youth.  Regardless of what we manage to find in our magic bag tricks, the younger generations have already seen even more impressive technological wonders.   So what are we to do?  But then, as  I thought about it more, I remembered that technology is in fact just a tool.  Tech is the wand, but the magic really comes from the wizard who wields it.

I believe that as teachers, we must always remember that our imagination and creativity is what really sparks that sense of wonder that, if we are lucky, will last for a lifetime in the hearts and minds of our students.  As a future biology teacher, I believe that if I can effectively relay my own sense of wonder and all the reasons why I fell in love with science, then I can really spark a domino effect in the class.

Now, in order to do that, we need a little spark ourselves, once in a while.  And what’s so great about technology is that it rejuvenates our passion for the things we love.  Looking at the Scale of the Universe website, I felt like that young middle school kid who took his older sister’s science books to read them just for fun.  Technology has that kind of power!

Indeed, technology is without a doubt a very powerful wand, as it lets the wizard expand his vocabulary of “spells”.  However, in order to be one of the best, we need to be inspired to learn all the new ways in which we can use the wand to captivate and enchant our audience.  Sure, they might’ve already seen it all before, with that “been-there-done-that” look on their faces.  But rather than feeling intimated, I prefer to be encouraged about how technology helps me see science in a new light and expands the ways by which I can teach it.  For instructors, these new resources make our content areas exciting again — like a kid who always finds new brands of candy at the store.  And, as well all know, excitement and sense of wonder are nothing short of contagious!

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Responses

  1. I agree that tech is a mere tool for delivering specific content, and let’s face it you can have a robot reciting the Gettysburg Address, while playing a glockenspiel and doing handstands in front of the class, and some kids will find it dull. Yet maybe those same kids come alive when in a group project or in more of a kinesthetic environment. I guess my point is technology is only as useful for how well a teacher knows their students. Tech cannot be used a crutch to make content more exciting, that is still up to us as educators.
    On a side note: I feel the same way when in a mens room and I stick my hand underneath the paper towel dispenser and it doesn’t shoot out at me, and then i realize theres one of those old Jack in the box type cranks on the side. Really? Crank my own paper towel? How dare them.

  2. Wow… I don’t know where to begin here. You share so much that is relevant and important. One thing that stands out for me in it all is that some things have not changed, one being the value of a relevant and interesting question worthy of our investigation. When science (or any other content area) is reduced to a set of skills to learn and facts to remember, we have truly lost something important… and this has nothing to do with technology.

    I love when you write:
    “I believe that as teachers, we must always remember that our imagination and creativity is what really sparks that sense of wonder that, if we are lucky, will last for a lifetime in the hearts and minds of our students. As a future biology teacher, I believe that if I can effectively relay my own sense of wonder and all the reasons why I fell in love with science, then I can really spark a domino effect in the class.

    Now, in order to do that, we need a little spark ourselves, once in a while. And what’s so great about technology is that it rejuvenates our passion for the things we love. ”

    This is where it’s all at. Being passionate about one’s content, skilled at helping learners discover it and connect with it, and using all of the tools at our disposal to do so… especially tools that help kids get past the gimmicks and passivity and into the discovery, creation, and sharing of new learning in meaningful and relevant ways. You’re right – students today are not easily impressed (or impressed for long) by these things. What we need to do is put these learning tools in their hands and give them meaningful and purposeful and important things to do with them. THIS is the central challenge, I think.


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