Thursday, February 4, 2016

Digital consumers and the excuse of technology.

@jmikton wrote an article about the idea of digital natives and digital immigrants. Long has the argument been made that the generation in school currently have been able to manipulate technology since birth. It's something no one has to teach them. What Mr. Mikton accurately corrects, is students are not digital natives, they are digital consumers. We see students using devices and assume they are using them to their full potential. We assume they know how to connect, collaborate, and ideate when, in fact, they primarily consume.

I see this in the classroom. I teach a survey course in eighth grade. We start with defining, characterizing, and research musical styles and significant contributors to that style. So, students are in groups, and let me provide some other information.

1. Every student has an iPad.
2. I have four additional desktop computers in my room.
3. Every student has a Google account.

When we began the project, students were "researching" (they use a researching tool called copy and paste), and placing their findings in Notes. They would then dictate their copied information to one person to type into keynote. Students can consume, but they struggle to create. Students may be able to Tweet, Snap, and Instagram, but they cannot leverage their screen to learn powerfully. The fact they are comfortable with a device does not mean they understand or can use the complete power of that device.

So, my main question is how do we teach them to stop consuming and start creating? I think that unit design is key. How can we provide space in our instruction to allow for more than moving information from one space to another?

The way I did this was to ask the students prove their learning in a way that was not "copy and pastable." We have three ways to prove their learning in this musical theatre unit. These are probably not going to work for your classroom, but consider the creative opportunities.

In one unit, we study musical theatre. Students can choose to audition for, direct, or perform a musical. Here is what I have seen in the classroom with these proof of learnings:

Audition - students have found a character in the musical they are researching to which they can relate (look at that grammar!). They highlight character traits similar to their own, they talk about ambitions similar to the character. They make it personal. (Remind me to talk about how students only see worth in learning what is personal and transferable.)

Direct - some students have decided to direct the musical they are researching. This has happened in several ways. Some students have taken the Legos I have in my room and produced a scene using stop animation. Others have used a green screen app to provide the setting for their scene. I've even had a few students recruit their friends to produce a live action performance in the classroom. They have found a way to infuse creativity and, dare I say it, fun into their learning.

Perform - amazingly, some students have chosen to perform in front of their friends. This takes courage. How often do we promote courage in our classrooms? How often do we celebrate courage in our classrooms? I'm just sayin', I'm not sure how much courage it takes to complete a packet. When students choose bravery in learning, there is no reason to assess. They proved they learned.

So, my question is: how do you shift our students from consumption to creation? How do you make the learning not just about the tool, but about the process? Students aren't motivated by technology. They are not motivated by a tool. It would be like being motivated to eat because you get to use a fork. How can you design units where the end product is not moving information from one place to another?

Not a lot of answers in this one, but hopefully will move the thinking forward.

Your comment are welcomed and encouraged,

Dane Barner

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