In my humble first-year-in-the-building opinion my school has a problem with stopwatches. I’ve been told that, for whatever reason, when we buy them they just don’t seem to last. Maybe they are a poor brand, maybe the battery is shoddy, perhaps there is a seventh grader jumping up and down on them when I’m not looking – it is middle school – I don’t know.
I do know this was terribly frustrating as my students were sharing the remaining working stopwatches timing our science investigations. 27 students and four stopwatches is not a good ratio for efficiency. Then, thankfully, one of my students clued me in to the fact that almost every student was walking around with a stopwatch in their pocket, oftentimes more than one. “They’re called cell phones and iPods, Mr. Rommel, duh” she said rolling her eyes at me. And you know what I deserved the eye roll.
I mean, I consider myself a pretty capable problem solver but I had never even thought to have the kids use the technology they already had at school anyway. I had completely overlooked the obvious.
I agree there are probably a lot better ways of using these tools than as stop watches, but you know what iPods as stopwatches is a start.
What I mean is if we don’t start embracing the technology students arrive at our classrooms with then we are denying them the very tools they use everyday to learn on their own and that is denying them authenticity in their learning. It creates a disconnect. I know this seems to be a huge leap to make from stopwatches but I see it in student’s faces when they are made to only use resources which they feel no longer apply to them. How many kids do you know who would use an atlas to find directions? In fact how many of you use an atlas for directions? (For the record I’m not saying stop teaching kids how to use an atlas, I am saying stop teaching kids how to use an atlas without also having a conversation on current ways of finding directions.) The disconnect may not be there for all students mind you, (I realize not everyone has TomTom mounted on their dash) but for a sizable and growing amount it is all too prevalent.
So why not start simple? It’s an easy way to foster a connection with students, to embrace “their” technology even in a small way, an easy way for them to feel current, and in some way empowered. I think it also provides you with a low maintenance opportunity to bring a reluctant colleague along on this technology discussion we should be having in our buildings.
I trust once the conversation began you wouldn’t let it stop there.
In fact you could share this bit of information with them: five of the top ten novels on the 2007 Japanese best seller’s list began as cell phone novels. Have them read for themself this article“>here in this January 20 article from the New York Times. Cell phone novels, cellular storytelling, whatever you want to call it digital natives are going to use technology in ways I would not think of. I mean seriously, how many of you would sit down and write a novel on a thumboard? What about read a novel on your cell phone? Whatever our collective answer as educators, here is a key sentence from the article:
“Indeed, many cellphone novelists had never written fiction before, and many of their readers had never read novels before, according to publishers.
There it is. Plain as day. In education we should be ready to embrace anything which promotes learning. If writing on a cell phone causes someone to read a novel who never has before then by all means tap away. I understand the article is referring to a segment of the generation raised on graphic novels – it’s not like they were illiterate – but the point remains this “new” medium brought about new types of readers and that is the type of connection I want to make.
So tell me again how did I get here from stopwatches? It seemed simple at first…duh.