The Digital Natives and Their Ways

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The Vision.

( Cue: dramatic movie-trailer voice)

In a world where students live online and learning lives in the classroom, one teacher will dare to “connect”. Will she succeed in incorporating online life, content learning, and sound pedagogy? Or will she and her students fail miserably and descend into an abyss of disconnectivity and despair?

Ok. Is that too much drama for you?

The Dream, The Nightmare, The Wakeup Call. 

Picture this: a quiet night at home. Ms. Bailey diligently adds students to her Google+ network so they can participate in a Google Hangout English tutorial the night before the December exam. She can’t do On-Air, to protect the students’ privacy.  Instead she figures about 10 keeners will come to tutorial, which is perfect for a regular ol’ Google hangout. 7:59 pm … anticipation mounts as the hangout is about to begin.

Does it go as planned?

Of course not.

No, 21 students show up for the tutorial. Too many for a Google Hangout (in many ways, a wild success!).

Additionally, despite her microphone working on the computer, and being turned “on” in the hangout, no student is able to hear her (in many ways, my bad).

Finally, the keen students suggest a technology which is native to them : Skype. YES! Skype! While 21 people would make video-conferencing slow on this app, the chat function and audio functions of Skype would work well, especially if Ms. Bailey can paste links into Skype chat (which she does).

SO, they move the whole party over to Skype. Since they all know how to use it already, and all have each other on Skype – save, of course, courageous Ms. Bailey- , this new venue takes about 3 minutes to get going. The evening is saved, and  they all have a productive 45 minute tutorial.

The Action! 

This brings me to a recurring theme in my investigations : can we reach students more effectively by teaching them using technologies that are native to their quotidian experience, than by introducing newfangled technology they have no non-scholarly applications for?

My Action Plan involves teaching students literature using “technology.”  I want them to collaborate to create knowledge and experience of the texts we are studying in ways that are most relevant for them. For their high-stakes exam in May, they’ll need to recall details from texts all the way from the beginning of the year. Are there accessible ways for them to establish this content as they learn it, and access it instantly throughout our course?

I hope so.  I’ve already started my investigation through google docs — which students also don’t seem to be using outside the classroom. It hasn’t been too effective thus far. Instead, I’ll continue by investigating Vine, Ask FM, and other social-ish media they already use daily to see if it’s more effective in their “out of classroom” hours.

The Matrix !!!

Yeah, prepare for a bajillion matrix jokes, quotes, and photos next post. That’s really why I chose the Technology Integration Matrix – makes for good writing.

TIM has, in my humble opinion, the coolest aid for implementation, in the form of a — wait for it — integration matrix … .

But wait, there’s more!

This matrix has not only descriptions of each level of integration, for different essential classroom skills (e.g. collaboration), but has examples of each for each subject one might teach (helpful for those of us who like concrete models for achievement). Also, there’s this rubric with general descriptors!

My favourite part is that I can measure my progress based on how natural it is for students to engage using my own tools, while effortlessly tracking my movement through the matrix. Exciting.

To Be Continued…

Digital Natives have their own “native” uses for technology and social media. To use an analogy, are we trying to colonize and convert our students to “appropriate” uses of technology? I’m hoping to conduct a brief ethnographic study, and then use students’ technologies in their ways to enhance classroom learning for our collective purposes – starting this month! We start Hamlet this week, so stay tuned to see whether my visions for Shakespearean Vines and Tumblr posts will work, with the guidance of the Matrix.


(A note on Google Hangouts: I really LOVE Google Hangouts, and all the possibilities for the classroom – the school I’m at has an elective Gmail account for students, and optional Google apps participation, which is part of the issue with making students Google apps “native”. I’m looking for something that can be seamless and natural for me and the students – hence, going towards what they’re already doing. In my case that just happens to not be Google Hangouts right now. )

7 thoughts on “The Digital Natives and Their Ways

  1. I love this idea! What a worthwhile and fascinating exploration. Even as an adult, I find myself gravitating more to technology that I already during for “personal” time. I look forward to reading about your discoveries as you go through this adventure with your students.

  2. Hi Ashley,
    What a great read – music cues and all! I really l ike how you were able to allow the students to bring in their own solutions. I think this speaks to their perseverance in the use of technology – which is half the battle! Nice!

    In terms of investigating the “meta” side of this, there are a few great posts I would point you to that I just uploaded to our shared Diigo group – you can access them here:

    I think it’s important to see how and why we get our students to plug in, but to also unplug.

    On a different note, have you see Story-Bird? It’s a great way for students to create and write a media rich text.

    Also, ThingLink is a great tech tool for annotating and adding hotlinks to anything from images to PDFs and screen shots. It’s might be a great way to engage students in the annotation skill.

    Thanks for a great post, and I look forward to more!


  3. I love this idea! What a worthwhile and fascinating exploration. Even as an adult learner, I find myself gravitating more towards technology that I already utilize during my “personal” time. I look forward to reading about your discoveries as you go through this adventure with your students!

  4. This tickled me, since I’m very familiar and at ease with Skype (maybe due to my years as an expat, when free phone calls were the equivalent of discovering the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) whereas Google hangouts are a new thing for me. It sounds as if your Skype session was very successful.

    Our school is extremely concerned with security and privacy issues, and at the moment the google-verse is not approved for use with our students.

    Thanks for the link to the Technology Integration Matrix – it looks fascinating and informative.

    Also, here’s a question: Has anyone done any research into whether students want their schoolwork being delivered via the social media channels they use in their down-time? Or whether the students find it an effective method of learning? I’d love to know the answers.

  5. Hey Ashley,
    Great post! So engaging to read, and I can imagine your classes being the same way.

    I think you’re right with respect to the TIM – it’s very concrete and easy to track. To Garth’s point, the face to face and in person interaction is also key. One aspect for Hangouts or Skype that I am experimenting with is when kids are home sick or leave early for breaks – they can continue with course work when not physically in class but can still collaborate with groups live or with Gdocs.

    With respect to Patti’s question, in my experience with getting students on Twitter they wanted it to be separate. They don’t necessarily want their teachers checking out their social media accounts, and we as members of OCT need to be aware of appropriate ways in which we engage with students online.

    I think one question I would ask is how are they using their native tech? Are they using it for learning, pleasure or connection – I think different tools lend themselves better to different uses. Also being able to shift in the ever-changing digital environment is an important aspect all while giving them choice of which tools could help them arrive at their goals.

    I am really looking forward to seeing how your Vines go!

  6. I love love loved this blog post. You are a great writer and I was smiling ear to ear when hearing your movie announcer voice in my head! Your students are lucky to have you.

    Just to add to the great list of suggestions and ideas on this post already, check out Jen Bibby’s action plan reflections from last year. We stand to learn so much from those that tried similar things before us…you might get some insight from Jen’s challenges with Google Hangouts in the classroom as well!

    • Hey Ashley,
      So my spouse just got back from work in a Supervised Study. She is working with students who have difficulty with organisation and concentration in a boarding setting. Anyway, she came in with stories from the students that significantly support your ideas of digital natives. Students hating infographics and social media because of the BTT course, something we’ll definitely be looking into. I look forward to following your progress!

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