We argue when they don’t have a pencil, but the latest Iphone. We can’t comprehend how their priority is to ‘get their phone back after class’ rather than making sure they have all the notes we gave that day.
It’s a ‘we’ versus ‘them’ scenario, because teachers didn’t grow up in the same generation that our students did. We’re the migrants, they’re the natives…
But my point is, as many educators believe as well, we have to remove the ‘versus’ status. It’s not a war, it’s a gap…and we need to learn to bridge it.
Students today didn’t grow up with the ‘dial up’ internet sound in their head, or a mother screaming at them to get off the internet because she needed to use the phone…all realities to which most teachers can relate. I say most, because I’m currently teaching with some young colleagues who also can’t relate.
Marc Prensky is a name that’s synonymous with this topic, so if you haven’t read any of his books, maybe do a Google search and get familiar with his writing. I actually consider him a visionary, because he saw that the gap was going to be a problem more than 20 years ago.
So the initial term Prensky used was ‘digital immigrant’. We grew up before the digital age, we probably didn’t have cell phones, we understood what phone booths were, owned a Walkman or CD player… ‘streaming’ was not a ‘thing’.
Thankfully, many of us have become ‘digital migrants’, in that, we’ve started to embrace the tech (hopefully). We’re definitely fascinated by it, we admit it makes our lives easier and we can doom scroll as much as our students (I’m not encouraging it). Yet unfortunately, many of us still leave the tech right outside the classroom door.
We’re baffled? Well imagine how confused our students are! Defined as digital natives, our students are “ ‘native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.” (Prensky, 2001). So imagine when they walk into our classes, and notes just start to go up on the board (out of a textbook), we don’t connect to real life places ( more on this later) and our presentations aren’t interactive (or a Powerpragraphs- yikes)! It’s like we’re asking them to forget that the world outside exists.
A world into which they were born. A world into which we migrated. But still….ONE world.
So let me give you some real- life scenarios:
Student leaves my class saying: ‘What do we have next? Geography? Well he/she only makes us write out notes from the textbook.’
Student in my class: “A next worksheet? Geez boy!”
I’m not pretending, I too am a migrant. I’m wary of technology, because its use doesn’t come naturally to me. Admittedly, my nephew has had to show me shortcuts to use my smartphone effectively and he’s seven.
But I am NOT an immigrant. And you shouldn’t be either…as a parent or as an educator.
I know it’s difficult to incorporate tech in a classroom when computers aren’t provided, there are no projectors or smart boards, WIFI fails you, and school infrastructure just ... .generally leaves MUCH to be desired. We’ll talk about that in the coming weeks and examine the need for systemic change in the Education system.
Still, you have to start somewhere. And maybe that means just you, personally, picking a tech tool and learning about it. There are enough choices out there: FlipGrid, Formative, Blooket, Quizziz, Quizlet, Edpuzzle, Plickerz, PearDeck, Genially….A LOT.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the topic of the moment, so how about finding out more about it? It goes beyond Chat GPT. I use Canva a lot and they’ve brought on an entire Magic studio with AI working behind the scenes.
My point is, you cannot expect to reach your children or your students by resisting the technology. Will it take courage to embrace it? Yes. Will it take some/ much learning on your part? Yes. But you have to migrate…you cannot be an outsider in your own world.
Now, to be clear, I am not encouraging you to replace sound pedagogy with technology. Technology is a tool to be INTEGRATED in your class, not to take it over. You can’t just hand your class over to tech and rock back with nothing to do. Why? Because believe it or not, those digital natives still need guidance on when to let the tech stop doing the thinking for them and how to develop their own cognition and critical-thinking skills.
Yes, because I’ve had a student who didn’t know how to troubleshoot not having a chair to sit on in my class. He was prepared to sit on the ground, and it didn’t even occur to him to go to another class and ask the teacher to borrow a chair. Trust me, and they may fight me on this point, but the human/physical teacher will always be needed in holistic education. Digital Migrants have their place in this world as much as the natives do.
So how do we bring the tech into the classroom?
Choose a tech tool that can actually be applied to your subject area. Not because you see another teacher using it in his/ her class, do you try to match him/her so you can just say ‘I use that too.’ A tool that might work for Foreign Languages may not work for Mathematics.
As I said, focus on ONE tech tool and spend your time learning it. Learn it well, watch tutorials, fiddle around with it and ask advice from others who may already use it effectively.
Use the tool asynchronously: So tech fails you in the physical classroom. You tried Quizizz and your class went up into absolute mayhem while you were waiting for everyone to join. Since then, you and tech have had ‘bad blood’/ it is banned from your classroom. Alternative? Assign it as homework/ to be done asynchronously. You can monitor who’s logging in and completing the task, who’s not doing your work, and deal with non-submission in class.
As I mentioned before, use the technology to connect to real-life: Example? So the texts I’m using for French are a bit old-fashioned. I use them, but I connect to real-life. When I was teaching the topic of Weather, we did the exercises from the textbook but then I logged on to meteofrance.com., which gave students a chance to see real-time forecasts for the different regions of France. First off, they were blown away by the fact that France was six hours ahead of us, so the forecast was for the evening while it was around noon (our local time). Then they realized ‘Hey! Marseille is a real place and oh! there’s the vocab we learnt! ‘ensoleillé) Point is, we took it out of the text. Again, if you can’t do it during the lesson, give them the website and have them look up the weather conditions for regions you select, as homework. Just give them sufficient time, so you can cater for the students who don’t have immediate access to devices.
Seek certification from platforms that offer it. Most ed-tech websites offer opportunities for you to achieve certification. You can also earn badges for levels of engagement, number of quizzes/ tests created etc. And honestly, it makes you, as a digital migrant, feel good when you see the confetti falling for you on the webpage when you get the badge or they send you the certification after you submit the course requirements. You need that extrinsic motivation as much as your students do and it has the added benefit of making you feel more comfortable with the technology. It may even inspire you to try learning another tool.
And that’s what we want. The easiest way to bridge the gap and change ‘Immigrant’ status to ‘Migrant’ status is by being open to learning about technology. It’s like some of us have xenophobia when it comes to technology, but in a digital world, this phobia has no place.
So is it all on us? No.
Digital Natives have their responsibilities too, and we’ll be discussing that later in the week and into next week as well, because Digital Natives may not necessarily be Digitally Literate. And that’s where Migrants come into play a WHOLE lot.
But one topic at a time. If you’re still not convinced you need to get on-board with tech, I want to leave you with this quote from Karl Fisch:
“We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”
Sounds scary? It will be, even more so, if you intend to remain a digital immigrant until you retire and refuse to step out of the digital dark ages. Become a migrant and move into the future. It’s inevitable.