Working Lunches

There are a few articles in the Diigo group of items that I read and then felt,”Yes, that’s right!” or “Absolutely!” Others have put into words what I have been thinking but haven’t gotten round to articulating.

The whole Digital Native idea really struck me last year when I was skyping with my daughter who is studying International Relations and Asian Studies at ANU. She had finished writing a essay about some political subject. She asked me if I would read her essay and give her feedback. (I am always honoured to be asked, even though the topic is usually way beyond my understanding!) I asked her to share it with me. I said, “It’s a Google Doc, yes?” To which her reply was, “What’s a Google Doc?”

She is one of those young adults who had a few technology lessons in a lab at the end of Elementary and then in Middle School and then went to High School where there were no scheduled tech lessons and then went to uni where it was the same. Certainly a consumer, not a producer!

The term “Digital Natives” has been bandied about amongst my colleagues for ages, understanding of the term ranging from that of those who read the Prensky book given by admin as a study, to those who hadn’t read the book but thought they knew what it was about. And for a few years amongst parents and teachers in the circles I move in, you’d often hear, ” Our kids today are growing up with computers – they know more than I do!” This almost always said with a laugh, but actually it isn’t funny if you are a child who is unfamiliar with technology and your teacher is expecting you to know how everything works!

I could never see it myself. Not generally. Two or three students each year would be beyond me in their tech learning, but often most weren’t. Which was good for me because it made me keep learning.

Even this school year, the first year that we have the 1:1 macbooks, I have found myself doing a lot of explicit teaching, right from the first day. Our students have used email for a few years and would consider themeslves competent. Back in August when I walked around the class with their new laptops open, I could see inboxes full with every email they had ever received! So there was lesson 1.

“Who knows what to do with old emails?” (blank looks…)

“Do you need to keep them?”

“Yes!” (bewildered looks…stupid question, Mrs B….)


“Well…..not sure…maybe they are important!”

“Are they ALL important?”

You get the picture. By now most of my students will have cleared their inboxes at the end of the day, important emails from me, or the librarian or the soccer coach,etc. filed away neatly. AND they are managing their Google Drives too, reasonably well.

I will always ask “Who can show us a way to…. do…whatever the task is…” I always expect that someone will have played around enough to work out a way that suits them, before I share the way that I have found that suits me. It’s great when we can share what we learn, but I cannot assume that someone WILL have an answer. My students have other priorities. They know all the ins and outs of Minecraft and have no problem finding chat features, but how to use the tab key to make paragraphs or how to insert hyperlinks are often new skills.

What I do find is that even if I have had to say, “OK! Look here. Try this,” and everyone does, they will take the opening and run with it so the next time we are doing something similar I will see students who have continued their learning. And then I have peer teaching and learning happening. Often they will just need to see that there is a need to learn something and a nudge in the right direction.

But I am just one teacher and the use of this technology is new for me too. Hence my joining COETAIL.

Over the last few years we have gone from compulsory fixed computer lesson time once a week in the lab, with bookable extra time depending on when the lab was free, followed by no fixed lessons for anyone and flexible lab time where all times were bookable, to having this plus two netbook carts to book for our classrooms, and then six netbook carts, shared among fifteen classes and now – finally my class has 1:1 macbooks for use in school. No more booking necessary – for the technology! We have as some might say in my adopted country, more computers than you can poke a stick at!

But while the number of devices available has multiplied greatly, over the past five or so years, we still have just the one technology teacher whose week gets booked up rapidly and who ends up eating his lunch while in the lab once a class is busy with something.

On Friday, we had a PD day with teacher-led workshops in the afternoon. I did two. One was “Getting started with twitter” and the other was “Does Google Drive, Drive you Crazy? One Way to get Organised.” We also had someone showing useful apps that students could use creatively, someone doing Google Apps, some iPad, iMovie and some non-technology based. All in all, pretty good spread of tech learning…… still….

I am not in a position to see an overview of our faculty’s knowledge, but from the questions I get about how to do this or that and from conversations I hear in the staffroom, I worry about the students in classes where there is a teacher who doesn’t like, isn’t used to, feels unsure of, or simply lacks confidence in technology. We do have those NETs linked on our school website, but I bet not many teachers have read them. And I wonder how do schools decide whether or not teachers are up to date in their own learning in this area? This is left up to teachers. Is that OK?

And it seems to me that until all teachers are competent in all those NETs, we need to  make sure students have added support in the form of extra tech teachers.

Then at least my colleague will be able to enjoy a peaceful lunch!


2 thoughts on “Working Lunches

  1. I think you touch on a really important component relative to Digital Natives and 1 to 1 programs. By far, the Achilles heal for most 1 to 1 programs is prior knowledge. We are quick to assume prior knowledge because current students are Digital Natives, but are they all? We take in students directly from public school all the time. We are 1 to 1 and for many of these students this is their first computing experience. Coming in mid-year to any school is hard, what happens when it’s a 1 to 1 school and you’ve never owned a computer before? Not only is this the first English Language immersion program for the students, they’re also bowled over with the tech. We’re actively searching for strategies, adding courses and support networks to help these students that don’t have prior digital knowledge. Building the foundation is key to successful integration and 1 to 1 programs. The faculty have to pitch in and help or the students runs the risk of bouncing out before they get going! Jeff Utecht dives into this on his blog The Thinking Stick in an article titled “Really? It’s My Job to Teach Technology?”. Great thoughts, thanks for posting!

  2. Hi Ian. Yes that post of Jeff’s made such an impact on me when I read it last year that I sent it out to all our faculty!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *