Exposing a Popular Myth

One of my favorite thinkers/critics out there, Barry Bachenheimer, did something last week that I have wanted to do for a while: he surveyed his high school students about their use of technology and their opinions about it. Seeing his results makes me want to do this even more so now. here is a smattering of the responses he got:

1. All kids are tech savvy and are using lots of Web 2.0 tools.

False. Based upon a recent survey at our high school, I found the following:

Do you do any of the following on a regular basis (check all that apply)

Read a blog
(21%)
Post comments to a blog
(13%)
Write a blog
( 7%)
Post to a wiki
( 1%)
Listen to a Podcast
( 9%)
Create a podcast
( 2%)
Download Music
(70%)
Upload music
(33%)
Download photos or video
(35%)
Upload photos or video
(38%)
Create videos, but don’t upload them
(11%)
Text message
(71%)
Send photos or videos I take with my phone
(29%)


And…

5. Technology is needed to students to learn in the 21st century.

I feel that learning with technology improves my achievement.

Strongly Agree

(15%)

Agree

(41%)

Neutral

(36%)

Disagree

( 6%)

Strongly Disagree

( 3%)

no answer

( 0%)


In every conversation I have with teachers and parents, I really try to stress the fact that while yes, this group of children has grown up with digital technology ingrained in their lives, their ability to use it critically and meaningfully is as raw and undeveloped as any adult figure, including their teachers and parents. Barry’s results above point to the fact that students have not been taught the value in using social technology for research and critique, of blogging for meta-cognitive analysis of yourself, or of the myriad ways to visualize complex data using simple web-based tools.

On Thursday of this week, we presented for the parents of our middle school, well the parents who decided to come, about what we are doing in regards to learning, teaching and educating with regards to technology. Our presentation, entitled “Supporting your Digital Child” was put on by Erica Hartman (6th Grade English teacher), Patrick Chodkiewicz(Technology Coordinator), Fran Schlenoff (Guidance Counselor), Brad Davis (Assistant Principal) and myself. Our intent was to open their eyes to what it is we do with technology, and the potential uses of technology in the classroom. We also gave them a brief understanding of the dangers associated with raising children in an online world. However, our intent was not to give them all the answers. We really wanted them to start asking more questions. We showed them Karl and Scott‘s “Did You Know,” and at the end, I really wanted them to pick up on the questions that they lay out to parents: what is your school district doing to help prepare your students for this world? I want them to show up and ask these questions, and I can’t wait to help design the answers to them.

One of the most memorable exchanges during the evening came in my last session when a parent asked me what to do if their child asked for a Myspace or Facebook account. My reply began by telling them to assess the maturity level of their son or daughter and how well they could trust him or her, but then something clicked as I was speaking and I blurted out during their response: “You should get one yourself right now and figure out how it works. Why wait until they ask you? They might not even ask anyway.”

To wrap up a somewhat meandering thought-stream here, I would have to say that as lost as some parents might be feeling amid all of this new terminology, they can take solace in the fact that the learning curve is not steep, and that for most things that relate to school, their children will be facing the same climb. Barry’s results from the teachers are another story, but even then, if there is one thing that our teaching staff can do, it’s adapt to changing students, which is exactly what we are facing now.

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