Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Students Speak Out: Weapons of Mass Instruction

I've been thinking about incorporating student voices on my blog. So last week I invited some recent alumni to be a 'guest blogger' on this blog. I asked them this question: "How did the digital tools you used in grade 11 enhance your learning experience?" What follows is the first student voice that I bring to my blog and hopefully, not the last.

The guest blogger is Loa. She was a student in my Sociology and Psychology classes in 2009/2010. As you will see, she is a gifted writer and easily communicates her ideas and feelings. Loa shares an experience that I think is common among many students. Our beloved 'digital natives' are comfortable with some technologies and not others. This might surprise some teachers who mistakenly believe that all teens are techno-savvy. They might text faster than most adults but they still need their teachers to introduce them to the powerful collaborative learning (digital) tools, such as the ubiquitous Google docs and Diigo. Here is what Loa had to say:

From Darren Kuropatwa's Flickr stream
“Technologically incompetent.” That was a label I proudly wore for years. Up until my graduating year of high school, surfing the web was just about as daunting a thought as surfing with sharks, and Google was an ocean of information I felt I might drown in. If unfamiliar with the World Wide Web, the idea of entering a tech classroom is both terrifying and overwhelming.
Last year, I was introduced into a learning environment where the chalkboard remained untouched and textbooks weren’t even purchased. Our arsenal of learning weaponry consisted almost singularly of a laptop- and our ammo a wiki, a personal learning network, online bookmarking, and a plethora of other programs and concepts I was unfamiliar with. My fear was that amidst all this unfamiliarity, I would be the only one unable to tread through my tech troubles. Little did I know that within a couple of months, my classroom of less than two-dozen students would form a coalition, an online community, but most of all, a support system.    
First semester, in order to make the transition from textbook classroom to going digital easier, we worked mainly with wikis and blogs. This was the perfect platform to help learn and implement, for the first time, the idea of collaboration. Not only were we able to share our assignments and view those of others, giving us a much broader range of knowledge than one would normally get from simply handing a project in to a teacher, but we could constructively criticize and push each other to reach our full potential. Each classmate became an important resource vital in each other’s success.
Second semester, we branched out and created personal learning networks that were specific to our individual research needs. It soon became obvious that google (most student’s go-to search engine) only provided a fraction of the basin of information that is offered online. There were tools and applications available that were beneficial to virtually any type of learner. And by sharing our PLN's with one another, every student was fully equipped with dozens of promising resources.
In effect, using digital tools greatly enhanced my learning experience this past year. Not only was it a fun, interesting way to learn, but I would walk out of every class feeling fulfilled at having learned things that were relevant and up to date. Being tech-savvy has given me the confidence to become an independent learner, knowing that the tools that will guide me to success are but a click away.
“Technologically incompetent” is label I’ve long since discarded. Now, I’m “digitally remastered” and proud of it!

Thanks to Loa for sharing her experience on this blog.  Her insights might be an important motivation for teachers who are fearful to take the leap into the digital learning space.  Teachers don't have to know everything and be masters of every learning tool.  If we can model excellence in learning (and that might mean humility and learning with/from the students) then we've been of service.  I encourage teachers to make the move from the learning place to the learning space by incorporating digital tools that can revolutionize your teaching and their learning.  I also welcome comments from anyone reading this blog.  You know that 80/20 split?  Only 20% of readers (and that's a lot!) will leave a comment, while 80% read, consume, think about the post (hopefully) and move on to the next blog.  That's fine too but teaching and learning is all about the relationships.  Reach out, touch someone and leave a comment if you're so inclined.


  1. I wonder if your guests experiences are typical of your students? Have you gotten feedback from other students yet?

  2. Hey Chris,
    My guest blogger's experience was representative of that class and grade level. You can hear more feedback from my students in that video posted near the top, "Which digital tool helped you most?". My experience thus far is that students are 'digital natives' in the sense that they learn new tools quickly but that they know little about web2.0 tools to leverage their learning. Thanks for reading and offering the comment.