Monday, January 27, 2014

Yes, I am a tourist.

I am a frequent tourist on the Digital Generation Island--I don't live there, but I know all the locals.  I didn't grow up with today's technology at my fingertips, but I was growing up as it was emerging and have adapted with it.

When I was in elementary school we had Storybook Weaver, Math Blaster and MS Paint.  When I got to middle school, there were video announcements and a computer class where we learned to word process and create PowerPoint-type presentations.  In high school there were classes for video news, website design, and our assignments frequently required internet research.  I graduated before the social media boom when bloggers were mostly conspiracy theorists and tabloid reporters.

Kids are learning technology earlier and earlier!
Today I use technology for everything I do.  I use the entire Adobe Creative Suite for photos, movies, and pattern-making projects.  I use Excel to track our household budget, grocery list, and anticipate my net paycheck.  (I'm a waitress, so the amount of money I make can vary wildly from week to week.)  Powerpoint has become my go-to when I'm making invitations or notecards.  I use my iCloud devices synced together to organize my life from morning alarms to when to pay the bills to a reminder to pick up milk on the way home.  While I enjoy social media and the opportunities that can come from it, I don't live my life in it.  I don't even have a Facebook or Pinterest account, and this is the first blog post I have ever made.

I have used most of the technology the students featured in their portraits at one time or another.  I have never used it to the extent these students are, though.  They are really going above and beyond because they love creating!  I love seeing the passion these kids display when they talk about their projects, and they are really doing some impressive things.

I had visions of using technology in my lessons to keep the students focused and interested, but I hadn't really considered letting them be the ones creating with technology.  There are a lot of educational apps out there for computers and mobile devices, but why not let them design apps and websites?  Why not let them record a song inspired by a book in Garage Band rather than write a book report?  There are so many ways to let the students express themselves through creative technology that I hadn't thought of.

21st century learning tools seem to span a very broad spectrum.  I think the traditional books, paper, pencils, and chalkboard still have an important place in learning, especially alongside the new technology.  I love that a lot of schools are providing students with laptops and tablets so everyone can enjoy the benefits of using technology in education even if they don't have access to that equipment at home.

I am excited to see that the widespread use of these technologies has led to cross-platform compatibility that we didn't have before.  When I was in high school, I used a computer program to compose/record a song for a project.  I had a floppy disk with the recording and printed out the sheet music to turn in.  When my teacher went to listen to the song, she couldn't open the file because the school didn't have the same software that I used at home.  Now there is a lot more standardization of file types so that media players can read all types of files, and media creating programs can save in multiple formats.  Now when a student decides to use technology, they can just bring their flash drive to school and use the smart board to present their project to the whole class!

References (in order of appearance): Dive into the Future of Learning
Baby photo courtesy of John Robertson Youth Portraits
School supplies photo from