This week a colleague of mine, Mary Hendra, shared with me an interesting article from FacultyFocus.com. In it, author Joan Flaherty discusses the gap she perceives between herself, a non-digital “native,” and her students, members of the so-called “millennial generation,” a group that has grown up with digital technology.
Gone are the days of reflecting on an assigned reading for an entire class period—or even expecting that the entire class has done the assigned reading. Examining its structure, debating its logic, and savoring its rhetoric would take up time, require sustained focus, and might not necessarily lead to the “right answer”—impediments to busy, parallel-processing students who are anxious to get it right once and for all. These impediments have been replaced with the quicker, more streamlined approach of fast-paced classes, instructor availability “on demand,” and detailed instructions.
But are these efforts shortchanging my students by reinforcing who they are right now — admittedly, as portrayed by media-hyped generalizations—at the expense of who they might become if guided beyond their current comfortable boundaries…Perhaps the gap between our ages doesn’t have to distance us after all. In fact, perhaps it can be a catalyst to keep us both learning. The students’ digitally enhanced perspectives have certainly made me venture into new territory, trying to harness—and emulate—their quick thinking, parallel-processing energy. But similarly, my predigital perspective can also open up new territory for them, showing them the surprising amount of ground they can cover by moving slowly and reflecting deeply.
It seems to me that Facing History’s efforts, particularly in online spaces, need to address this “new territory” Flaherty describes, a space wherein deep reflection occurs during a journey of exploring identity, issues of we and they, and historical case studies. How can this be articulated online?
At Facing History we have seen this done using a variety of new media. Facing History students have used Voicethread when considering identity, discussion threads when grappling with issues of bystander behavior and bullying and Glogster when looking at survivor testimony, just to name a few. Facing History teachers are active in online discussions, both in short (5-10 day) workshops and long (7-8 week) seminars, as well as using Today’s Meet and other backchannels to chronicle their thoughts when considering how to use documentary film in their classrooms. Facing History teachers have often used Wallwisher (now Padlet) with their students to facilitate “big paper” conversations, often using it as a pre-writing activity. Mobile tech (cell phones, Flip Cams) has been used in Facing History classrooms worldwide as students interviewed their peers and their parents about their experiences with voting and voting rights.
How are you using technology in your own classrooms? Do you use it as a bridge to reach those digital natives or is that a bridge too far? What are technology’s advantages and what are its classroom challenges?