Monday, November 30, 2009

Digital Coping Skills


I was having a discussion with a colleague today about digital coping skills. It got me thinking about the difference between analog and digital coping skills, especially as they relate to teaching.

In my opinion, teachers are excellent at coping with a lot of issues. Nothing in a classroom ever goes exactly as planned, but you don't see teachers throwing up their hands and saying, "Forget it!" They deal with misbehaving kids, running out of paper, broken pencils, messy chalk, fire drills, spills, interruptions, and much more. These things rarely phase good teachers. They take it all in stride and continue on. In fact, to the casual observer, they might not even notice that anything had happened.

Why then, do so many of these same teachers seem to feel that technological mishaps are such huge roadblocks? Why are digital coping skills so different from "analog" coping skills? Is it that they require teachers to do some troubleshooting that they may not feel qualified to do? Is is that they require teachers to have a comfort level with technology that allows them to switch gears in the middle of a lesson without missing a beat?


So how do build digital coping skills? We can't possibly teach all teachers all aspects of technology. We may just need to build them on the go. When I first started teaching elementary school, I was afraid to do arts and crafts projects with my students. I worried about the mess that it would create. I worried about the time it would consume. I worried that I was not artistic enough to give good directions or model effectively. No one taught me how to be a better arts and crafts teacher. I just jumped in and started working with paint and glitter. I still don't really like it, but I did give my students an opportunity to do something outside my comfort zone. Over time, I learned how to organize arts and crafts lessons better to minimize the mess. I learned how to show them tricks to make the projects easier, even though I didn't really know how to do them well myself. I learned that many of my students benefited from the opportunity to express themselves in a way that was different from my own.

Digital coping skills aren't really that different from analog coping skills. It's just that we are so good at analog coping skills that we take them for granted. It is time for us to develop our digital coping skills.

Jump right in.
Ask for help.
Expect mistakes.
Most of all, remember that your students might find value in something, even if you aren't comfortable with it.

Photo Credits:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bringing Technology to the World of Formative Assessment

The other day, I had the pleasure of observing our high school orchestra. I spoke with the teacher about his use of SmartMusic with students. It was really amazing. I had heard quite a bit about it before, but to see how he used it in class and then seamlessly assigned the music to students so students could practice their part at home with accompaniment and record their practice session, get instant feedback, create a portfolio, and create a circle of communication between student, teacher and parent was unbelievable.

I also saw a PE class in which the students used exercise equipment to track their health. They exercised at their target heart rate for a period of time and then recorded their pulse, calories burned, etc...

It got me thinking, "How do we do this in other subjects?" Imagine students reading pieces of text into a microphone and getting instant feedback on their fluency and decoding! Then being assigned "just right" books based on the results and emailing the results to parents automatically. Imagine taking a math test online and then using the results to determine what lesson or unit that student should take next. Why can we do it in music and PE, but not in other areas?