Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My Little Brother Just Challenged me to Words With Friends

My little brother and I

 On any given day my twitter feed and google reader may have over a dozen blogs or articles regarding the proper place of technology in the classroom. While most of these posts deal explicitly with the classroom, many of the issues (both positive and negative) can be microcosms for the general public's feeling on technology. Over the last three days I have read three thought-provoking blog posts on technology. One was by Chris Kennedy explaining how his elementary students thought social media could be a medium for peace.  He argues that students recognize and understand the role social media occupies in changing the world. Another was written New Milford High School principal Eric Scheninger. He argues that instead of banning technology we should embrace "web 2.0 technologies that foster creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, and communication skills." Finally, George Couros writes, in a blog post titled "We Are All Somebody's Kid", that adults need to model online respect in both agreement and disagreement.

As I read these, I could not help but think about how important technology is in my life.  First, I love technology. I am the eldest of nine children. When I left for college my baby brother was just being born and another younger brother was four years old. Because I went away to college and subsequently away for grad school, I have spent precious little time with them. I have lived hours away by car and given my schedule (full time job and grad school), it has been nearly impossible to see their first baseball games, birthdays, and the such. But we live in a truly remarkable age. My dad snaps a few pictures or video clips via his phone, sends me a caption and I feel like I am there. The next time I talk to my little brothers on the phone I have a clear visual to start an authentic conversation. Furthermore, my mother just bought an Iphone. Since I recently bought one too I can now have "Facetime" conversations with my family. Last time my brother even challenged me to Words with Friends and we have been playing and texting ever since. All this authentic communication is truly remarkable and I am thankful for it. Whenever I hear that social media and technology distances human interaction and relationship, I am truly puzzled. Whether it is my family's ability to chat face to face, my student's ability to email me, or the daily learning facilitated by my PLN, I am eternally indebted to how technology fosters real connections. 

My second thought may be a bit more controversial. Do our lower income schools and families have the same abilities? Having taught in a "low resource" area the previous two years, I saw technology and internet as an integral part of community life. However, I did not see it being used as an integral part of the educational experience. Whether it be access to devices or education using these devices, we must include all socioeconomic groups in this movement to technological literacy. Technology, social media, and Web 2.0 tools should be made available to all. We cannot continue the "divides" in our country to include that of technology. As technology can truly build bridges, address differentitation, and promote relevancy, it is something that should be really pushed in school. We need to make sure that technology is not something that is to be banned and relegated. We need to see that technology can be used in the same way I use it with my family. It should be used to build relationships, knowledge, and connections naturally throughout the school day. This is the world our students live in and we cannot ignore it.

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