We have had some outstanding students walk through our halls. I know this happens in every school. As a colleague of mine posted yesterday it’s important that educators don’t get bogged down with the apathy of some students, rather we should celebrate the successes and try to mimic those profiles. This year we have a senior that has earned an athletic scholarship to Kansas, we have a senior that has been accepted to attend Harvard, and another senior that will begin basic training in June preparing for the Air Force Academy in the Fall. We have to continue to hold the bar high and stay focused on the successes.
I believe the experience in my classroom a success when students can engage in meaningful, thought-provoking dialog. This week I have been discussing with my students how communication changes us and how the advances in technology have changed the way we communicate. We brainstormed examples of advancement in computer technology in their lifetimes. The list my students came up with included cell phones, texting, wii, playstation, ipod, ipad, GPS, faster processors, HD…the list went on.
There were some interesting observations when I posed the question, ‘how have these advancements affected communication in their lives?’ This inspired some anecdotes from Mr. Steltz. I remember when I was dating my girlfriend (now wife) in college I actually had to wait until she got off of work to communicate with her. There was not texting. If we were to make plans for after work they would have had to have been made prior to work beginning. Not the case anymore. In high school, I remember having to watch the TV or listen to the radio early on snowy mornings to find out if we were going to have a snow day. Today, I can go online as soon as I wake up in the morning to find out. Just recently, our school district has used some sort of computer technology to actually call all the employees (and students maybe) with an automated message…so I don’t even have to power-up my computer. My six year old son goes online in the morning to catch the Winter Olympic luge competition he missed the night before.
Technology has brought the world to our fingertips. I was just reading the back cover of the book Wisdom2.o and it claims that people are willing to go without food and sex longer than being without the internet. The thought actually entered my mind, ‘Hmmm, I think that might be true in my case now that I have discovered Twitter.”
We have been studying figurative language in poetry the last few weeks. Identifying and creating paradoxes has been a point of emphasis. A student the other day said, “The way we communicate with technology has given us the opportunity to be closer together, yet we are further apart.” Then, with a surprised satisfied smile on her face, exclaimed, “Mr. Steltz, that is a paradox!” I smiled and agreed. As I looked over the rest of the class I could tell they were thinking. I was blown away by the complexity of her comment and how it expressed a reality, a truth, about the age we are living in today. We don’t need to see each other as much because we are texting or twittering or chatting…. The void of not seeing someone for a while can be filled by a quick tweet or text.
In that same conversation but in a different class a student quipped, “Communication with technology takes away time we spend together.” I agreed saying that yes we spend too much time being entertained by wii, playstation, or ipods. He the interjected, “No, Mr. Steltz, what I mean is that if I spend one hour texting, tweeting, or on FaceBook, that is one hour I don’t communicate with someone face to face, therefore not building the personal relationship.” Whoa!!! Another complex idea expressing a truth about our world today.
There is certainly significance for students to learn how to communicate with people face to face and collaborate with their peers. Today’s educators just need to figure out ways to incorporate and fuse the in-person communication with the technological communication. Imagine an episode of Seinfeld be like if the characters were only allowed to communicate through technology. How would Kramer bust open Jerry’s tweetdeck to make his grande entrance? How would Elaine shove Jerry or George in the chest knocking them across the room and saying, “SHUT UP!!!” George would never know exactly what to text to his next hot pursuit and, most certainly, his text or email or tweet would be totally taken the wrong way. In fact, I am sure George would get himself in some sort of spiraling funnel of puns and metaphors in his ‘accidental’ sexting episode. I am sure communicating via technology would suit Jerry just fine. His apartment would be quiet, his fridge would remain stocked, and he could sit comfortably on his couch watching his Mets games without interruption. Ahh…some things are just better communicating the old fashioned way, aren’t they?
My eyes and mind are opened on a daily basis with the gifts my students share with me. I am living in a much different world today than I did when I was their age. It wasn’t even that long ago…I’m only 38. When we were writing sonnets last week, students had their ipods out doing google searches for rhyming word sites to help them in writing their sonnets. Some teachers might be anxious about this…where is the creativity? I am trying to embrace these moments. Any time I need information about something where do I go? GoogleSearch!! Two days ago I had a student explain to me the benefits and applications of BlueTooth. Wow!!
The point is I love to celebrate learning with my students. I enjoy learning from them. We have some great students with some great talents. Let’s figure out what it is they want to learn and let’s help them find that information.