Thursday, December 9, 2010

Embracing first, imagination second.

Schools are forcing students to leave their digital media tools outside of the classroom; however the students are craving these tools to be used inside the class.  We need to change our paradigm from looking at standardized test scores and graduation rates, to start focusing in on allowing students to perform on what they are passionate about.

Education needs to move away from being the same to everyone and towards giving students opportunities and options that were not available when we, the educators, were in school.  How do we do this?  In my class, I have posted notes we created as a class onto a discussion group through Facebook.   Also, I have created a youtube video of a concept for which a student can watch whenever and wherever they are.

Every week-end I give my students a problem that they must solve.  This problem must not be solved in the conventional paper and pencil way.  The students must either send me a message on facebook, email, or write it out on paper (for those students who have no access to the Internet over the weekend).  The student must actually write out how they solved the problem and communicate their answer to me through text.  To illustrate this I have attached a student's answer for a problem on how to factor a cubic equation.
"First, I found the factors of three and substituted each until I found three to be the number that once substituted, equals zero. Using synthetic division, I got x^2-x-1. There are no two numbers that multiply and add to get -1 so I used the quadratic equation. After simplifying, I found x to equal one plus or minus the square root of 5, divided by 2 and x to equal 3".
As you can observe the student can longer just write out their answers using math, but instead communicate the solution to me.   By sending it to me over facebook/email, I have the ability to give them immediate feedback on their solution.  To illustrate this one student had the problem of 5f(x+2) and they had to explain in English what this meant.
Student: substitute x into function f and multiply by 5 and then you add 2
Myself: The plus 2 is in the brackets, want to try your answer again?
Student: substitute (x+2) in for the f function, then multiply that by 5
This conversation was done on a Saturday through Facebook.

The sad truth is that students are craving information immediately and at light speed.  If educators do not recognize this need, students will tire of our classes and not reach their full engagement. 

A comedic representation of this fact is shown by this video “Everything is amazing, and no one is happy”.

If we compared the technology that a 20 year old had available, in school, to what a 28 year old could access in school, you would see such a drastic difference.  Sadly, most 5 year olds are more competent with the internet than some 50 year old people.  This is due to the fact that children have access to these amazing technology tools. 

What is going to happen with this 5 year old enters school?  He/she already has such creativity and imagination.  The true potential of this child will be amazing. Schools need to be ready to embrace these tools and allow for the imaginations of children to shine.


  1. Nice post. It saddens me when I see teachers suppress these tools because not everyone has them, so it's only "fair" to make everyone go without. Or, and this one may be even worse, teachers or parents see these tools as "cheating".

    There are a lot of archaic views on the use of these tools. Because many teachers or parents don't even use these tools themselves, things may not change until these kids grow up and become teachers.

  2. I am wondering how you feel about the instructions you have posted on your wall then Dave...the ones that tell the students to clear the memory of their scientific calculator. Is that not along the same lines as asking them to NOT use their digital devices??
    I think they should all be used if it is appropriate, it's just a matter of finding the best way to utilize them within our classrooms, each class is different. But let's not lose sight of some of the old practical ways of learning. They may seem archaic but they aren't necessarily a bad method. We have to let students experience all new and old methods because not all students are going to benefit from the stimulus that the electronic age is bringing.