Pencils, Backpacks, and Perspective: Keeping Up With Kids

Let me start out by saying that I have grown up around computers. Of course, when I was little we still had dial-up internet, used floppy disks, and played Oregon Trail in the classroom (Do people still play that? If not, that needs to be brought back.) I had computer classes from kindergarten on. The early years mostly consisted of learning to type and playing some pretty old-school computer games. My high school career included four years of programming classes in which I learned three different programming languages. During one school awards assembly, it was even announced (to my embarrassment) that I had scored 100% on my computer programming final. My point is, I’ve got quite a lot of experience with computers. When I look at my sister, a sixth grader, none of it seems the least bit impressive anymore.

She was a toddler when the first iPhone came out. And it shows. She may have less experience than I do, and no knowledge of programming, but she knows more about computers than I think I ever will. It’s incredible. Humbling, but incredible all the same. I think we tend to underestimate what constant exposure to new technology can do to a child’s mind. In the same way that small children learn languages more easily than their older counterparts, they pick up new technology without even breaking a sweat. The funny thing is, from now on it will always be this way. Teenage tech entrepreneurs like the creators of Summly and Twitter are going to become more and more common until it’s not even a surprising event any longer.

The problem is, how do those of us in the older generations, and teachers especially, keep up? Technology is gradually becoming a bigger and bigger part of classrooms. But it’s not only the students who have to learn to utilize edtech, but the teachers as well. What happens when the students know more than the teachers? Well, nothing drastically bad. Teachers simply have to work a little harder than their students.

My suggestions for doing so? First, listen to your students. If you see them doing something that you don’t know how to do, ask them to explain it to you. Chances are they’ll be happy to be teaching you something for a change. Second, read as much as you can. Whether it’s edtech or even just tech websites, read them. If you get an instruction manual with whatever device or software you are using – read it. If you don’t get one, find one online and (drum roll please) read it!

The more informed you strive to stay the better equipped you will be to adapt to new and improved technologies.

Got any other tips for keeping up with your students? Share them in the comments!