today's plugged-in students are telling educators to embrace a technological future
For Administrators

Plugged-in Students are Telling us to Embrace the Future

By Brian Gatens July 24, 2014

A common theme I tend to dwell (harp?) on is that the children coming to our schools are the most plugged-in, socially aware and savvy students we have ever seen. Their constant access to all forms of media requires us to be aware of their needs and, more importantly, reminds us that their continued learning is contingent on schools changing their approach to learning.

today's plugged-in students are telling educators to embrace a technological future

Those needs can inspire new and engaging experiences for students and teachers alike, if we use the right approach. The reality of our plugged-in generation requires us to keep a few points in mind:

Technology is in their lives; it should be in your classroom

Step back and think of the world of technology available to your students outside your classroom. Now compare that to your in-classroom work expectations. Are you using anything more than a textbook to deliver your instruction? Have you used online resources to present information and had students create content (websites, blogs, presentations, etc.) that exhibits an understanding of your content?

The world of the student has shifted dramatically since the rise of the Internet and the explosion in handheld devices. If you’re teaching the same way that you were five to 10 years ago, or longer, I’d be willing to bet that the learning and engagement of your students has decreased.

Let go of the ‘golden past’

Too many of us lament the passing of the “good old days,” as if students skipped into school every day and begged teachers to lecture for 45 minutes. It’s only natural to see the past through rose-colored glasses, but please remember that our vision of a happy past is more a byproduct of our personalities than an indicator that things were always so great.

Instead of trying to recapture times past, turn to the future and try as best as possible to prepare a learning experience for your students that capitalizes on their brave new world.

See it as a growth opportunity

I’ve always found that my best work as a teacher and administrator comes from my toughest challenges. When you look out over your class and see students much more interested in their phones and tablets than in your content, you’re witnessing an opportunity to adjust (and improve) your practice.

This requires a leap on your part, as moving from what is comfortable to what will be (temporarily) uncomfortable is never easy. Keep in mind that doing so will increase the learning of your students and make your professional practice more enjoyable.

Getting organized is much easier

It’s tempting to think of technology mainly as a tool to deliver classroom content. Yet I’ve found technology can do as much good for organizing students and their work as it does for enabling their actual work.

Services such as Remind101, Edmodo, and Google Apps for Education and Classroom are excellent resources to help students organize their learning, submit homework and otherwise bolster their education. Using these resources helps not only your high-performing students, but also students who need extra assistance keeping on track in the classroom.

Explore gamification

In a famous TED Talk, Jane McGonigal explored the concept of “gamification” and how the attitudes of video games can improve student learning. Resiliency, problem solving and collaborative skills are all reinforced by gaming, and they are “easy sells” to our plugged-in students.

This is a growing field of research in learning and shouldn’t be easily discounted as just another attempt to “sell” learning to our students.

Yes, the world has changed in ways that require all of us to look at how we approach the teaching in our classrooms and the learning for our students. Teachers and schools that embrace this reality will have a head start on those who long for the past while their future dries up.

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