What I Learned from First Graders and Other Ideas

I am always in awe of how my baby nephew navigates the world through his growing lens of curiosity. He has this fearlessness about him that demands certain freedoms most often held back from toddlers. I can’t think of a single time where we have denied him the right to try something new as our place in Braeden’s world taught us better. Creativity can’t be cultivated in children with so much adult control. This is especially true of his exposure to technology…an area where a few have been critical of our choices in “screen time” even when they have no idea how we do this or why. Perhaps “why” matters much more but that is an entirely different conversation.

Yesterday, I spent time with 4 sessions of 2nd and 1st graders, exposing them to the Museum of Modern Art while facilitating their creation of their own modern pieces to upload for sharing as a part of their school’s art day. Working with these children was a breath of fresh air as their sponge like understanding of what they were doing  and why far exceeded any person who ever dares limiting them thinking that they can’t.

The first grader’s ability to navigate their own creativity is a thing of beauty in and of itself.

“What does this button do? I’ll just press it and see what happens, Ok?”

“If you want to find an app faster, you can just search the ipad or double tap the home screen button twice. I do it all the time on my tablet.”

“I’ve already snapped my picture, saved to gallery and sent to the camera roll. Do you need me to airdrop it somewhere too?”

“I can’t wait to download this to my tablet.”

“I can’t think of what I want to make but I’ll figure it out soon.”

“Can we play Minecraft when we are done?”

As I thought about how we navigated yesterday’s activity, I realized that my approach to working with these pretty tech savvy kids was vastly and understandably different from how I would have had to approach the same scenario of creativity with adults. I didn’t make a “how to” guide to print or post online. We didn’t need it. I didn’t even water down the instructions. As a matter of fact, I probably talked so fast in my demo to them about how to locate and work the app itself that I expected a room of lost children.

They were not and it was glorious.

Lesson of that day…perhaps one should always approach training like when integrating tech with tech savvy first graders?

By the way, if you are on an ipad or have an iphone, download their artwork here.

😫😬😫😬 to “Technology” Sessions

A couple of weeks ago, I learned that a large Texas district got rid of their digital learning department and instead embedded this work into “Teaching and Learning” which is something that I have always said should be the absolute case even though I must give a million side eyes to HOW they did it since it was done with little transition. (more on this later)

We should not be teaching “tech sessions” at all. There are ways to get this foundational learning and while I know that the comfort level of adults is much lower than that of the children in our rooms, how much longer will we continue to approach PD the same way before we make the shift?

…a shift that can’t happen when teachers NEED beginning tech sessions because their own learning styles, availability and comfort demand it. This is a fact that we can’t deny…like it or not.

In an ideal world, technology would simply be embedded into the fabric of how we all work. We would have development on “designing for learning” that teachers desperately need through the lens of pedagogy…focused on the needs of the kids they teach and their respective content areas. (No one teaches this anymore and they should!!!)

Many digital learning departments approach PD in this much more cohesive way and in many cases, partner with their curriculum/instruction teams to do so and have had great success at doing it.

With that said, there are only so many people wired in such a way that learning and understanding the scope and impact of technological change is at the core of who they are…only secondary to the human beings that they support. While I completely cosign this marriage between curriculum/instruction and digital learning, I worry as someone who has been both at the intersection of these worlds and completely rooted on either side.

In all of my years of teaching and supporting fellow teachers, I knew wholeheartedly that I needed to be the person that helped others think differently about what we asked kids to do. Worksheets on worksheets on worksheets are STILL a thing. Technology isn’t just about capturing data for an assessment or embedding digital textbooks and in all fairness, nor is learning about the technology.

In a perfect world, people would simply understand this but in a landscape where edtech companies have become even more masterful at selling BS to the unknowing, including to some of us who should know better, the struggle to continuously guide teachers, leaders and districts to the land of student agency is real.

In that planning room, there HAS to be a lens into how kids use these digital tools to empower learning and creativity and that is what digital learning teams typically bring to the table…a table that is almost always completely void of this lens in every other scenario.

While I applaud any district who moves toward this vision of a much more streamlined approach that focuses on learning and not tech…I pray that this work is done with care to make sure that the voices of those who most often speak up for what kids SHOULD be doing with technology are not silenced or worse…eliminated.

…because as the old saying goes, people don’t know what they don’t know and that’s about as real as I can be about it.

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