Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Students Leading Ed Tech Change: Drawing Inspiration From The Tech Savvy Student

In my past 8 years of teaching a variety of levels of technology fluent students in the classroom I have become exposed to the variety of different ways that students supplement their knowledge acquisition of technology skills while away from the traditional classroom. I always find it very interesting when speaking with students to discover how they found this tool or that web resource and see how they have built upon their skills completely independent of school curriculum. I am also curious how they then share and collaborate with these skills. 



Technology knowledge driven students spend hours of their time learning how to learn develop a variety of skills such as programming, research skills, web fluency and development. In this process they define goals, find resources and match those goals to projects with meaning. These students become the leaders and show superior knowledge acquisition in most classrooms. We hopefully have all met these trailblazers at some point in our educational careers, they take acquiring skills in which to create projects and develop knowledge to a new level. I love working with these students because I learn from them and I grow with them. By encouraging them I am allowed to envision what their projects goals are and how their research will impact their learning.


In my web design and mobile app development courses I often had students who had more advanced programming knowledge prior to taking my introductory course. Some of these students acquired their skills in a summer camp or other venue but many of them had found the resources themselves on the web and become familiar with the skills necessary to be complete tasks independently.We operate in a time in education in which most students have many resources to direct their own independent learning. 


I think it is important to ask students: "What skills and knowledges do they use to compensate for the knowledge’s they don't find in the traditional curriculum?" It is with their answers that educators can find the opportunity to provide students with a range of new and interesting skills. It is time to investigate what students research, and how they use their time to better understand what the world of education is for students who are doing much of their learning online. This will provide a real opportunity for educators to see what they're missing. It may lead to better formulated lessons, more comprehensive curriculum and skill based learning. 

Having a classroom open to collaboration and connecting to the real world by introducing business owners, entrepreneurship opportunities and connection to employability based soft skills can help keep your classroom vibrant and infused with learning which is relevant to world applied knowledges. The modern student is looking for the knowledge and examples to apply skills to complete projects with self defined goals which are relevant in the real world. I really believe this is at the heart of education, helping students learn and guiding them towards resources. Let's allow them to develop their own thoughts and create their own projects which can really help change the world.

Students are engaged with games like Minecraft, which enables students to create their own worlds and are able to develop their knowledge of the Java programming language to create modifications (Mods) to their games and worlds. Our current technology education system has not caught up with these trends and provided opportunities for students to develop the skills in the real world classroom. In this process we are losing out on a critical opportunity to connect with students and better understand what drives their acquisition of knowledge. We are also not able to frame their skills and build realistic connections to apply their skills in the real world. Students are deciphering the web and finding their own curriculum in order to learn how to acquire deeply engaging technology embedded skills.

Students are also learning new programming languages that their current classroom teacher has not caught onto yet. Their young active minds are moving beyond just being tech savvy and helpful when a teacher is in trouble, they have developed their own system of knowledge acquisition which plans projects and needs to be valued and encouraged in and out of the traditional classroom.

Educators are missing not only a valuable opportunity to connect but also but also a valuable opportunity to continue their personal growth with the integration of technology. Embracing the independent technology learner enables teachers to draw from student experience and knowledge and can help create more engaging lessons and strategies to connect with students. The web the way students view it.