I had my eyes opened the other day in my classroom.
Occasionally my students and I chat about technology. These chats can cover everything from the latest developments someone has run into online, to the most useless apps they have seen, to staying safe online. But this chat was different. We are beginning to run deeper into learning some computer science and programming pieces in my classroom. While we’ve done different things throughout the year and some kids have delved quite deeply into this topic already, this is the beginning of about six weeks of every day work. So we were talking about apps they currently use, what they do on their devices and what devices they have available to them in their homes.
Interestingly, when I asked them to draw a computer, I got an entire set of class diagrams that looked like this:
But when I asked the kids what they used the devices in their houses for these are the answers that I got:
I don’t live in a box. I know that teens and adults use different devices for different purposes. But I was still surprised by how unbalanced their responses were compared to what mine (and I suspect most other adults) would be.
So I went one step further. I asked the kids to draw a circle graph estimating what percentage of their screen time was spent on what device. These are representative of what I got from all of the kids in my class:
These pictures and the discussion we had explains a lot to me about the kinds of things that students are knowledgeable about and the gaps they have. The only thing they use a desktop or a laptop for is homework. While these students are fairly comfortable with technology, my classroom is probably the only place they get extended time working with what we would consider to be a “computer.” This leaves much of the software, the idea of file management and work flow to be a mystery to them. They have little experience working in a formal, networked, “traditional”computing environment.
I still need to take the time to think more deeply about the effect that this will have on what and how I teach kids to use technology. This makes me question the relevance of some of what we are doing. Is technology a motivator for students if they are now thinking about “school technology” (laptops, etc) versus the technology they use? (phones, ipods). This seems to be a similar change to what has happened with things like blogging. A decade ago a blog was interesting and motivating since few people had a space online. Now, with the proliferation of ways to share information, just giving a student a blog isn’t motivating anymore. Is this the same change? Giving a student access to technology in a classroom is going to lose it’s motivating factor?
I’ve got a lot to think about.