Our daily lives are slowly being invaded by technology. Humans have always had experiences that we wanted to capture in images and through stories. In this digital age these stories can be told quickly and shared instantly in the forms of facebook and Instagram posts, text messages, and tweets. This digital crossing took center stage in my classroom, leading me to a split second decision to give in to the invasion, and consequently some deep reflection about the intersections between my classroom and my students digital ways of being. This series of posts will examine the intersections of daily classroom practices, technology, and it’s effects on my teaching.
Here’s the scene. Students gather at tables in groups of four. On a tray sits individual cups of various reactant material, beakers, syringes, stir sticks, magnifiers, goggles, and thermometers. Students carry with them science notebooks, labsheets, and pencil or pen. I go over the procedures, checking for understanding of the lab directions. Students prepare in small groups for their first set of reactions. “For safety, goggles on.” I walk around supervising reactions, asking probing questions, and checking notebooks. I stop to check in with Barry, he holds up his beaker, bubbling from his reaction combination, and says, “Ms. Simmons I really need to take a selfie.” In that instant I stopped to consider the idea. In a matter of seconds I reflected on moments when I feel the need to take selfies. I figured Barry saw himself as that classic image of scientist making bubbling concoctions in laboratories, and he wanted to capture this moment in his working cell phone memory. Something is happening here, I thought. “Go Ahead.” “For real” he says, “I can.” “Ok class”, I say, “I’m giving two minutes for anyone who wants to take a selfie.”
Much of what I do in my classroom centers around relationship building. From day one I ask students to work collaboratively. Often that collaboration is centered around constructing ideas together but can also be as simple as negotiating the sharing of material. From the first day of class I begin establishing safe and trusting relationships that push students past their perceived learning boundaries. Part of my attempt to build relationships with my students centers around incorporating student interests into the classroom and allowing them a voice in the way our learning takes shape. That means valuing the world in which my students reside. As much as I hate to admit it for sake of feeling old, that world is different from mine. It is different from the one in which I grew up. I teach in an era of social networking. Every student I had this year was fascinated by or had a personal relationship with social media. The scene described above is just one slice of the way technology is altering our classroom landscape. Reflecting on the decision to give students time in this lesson to take selfies led me to uncover something I believe is underlying the whole scene.
I felt that I should validate my student’s experience by valuing that he wanted to capture that moment in time. He would later tell me that he shared the image with his family. In the moment he knew he had the technology to preserve the moment, take it with him beyond the classroom, and share it at home with his family. These digital tools at the fingertips of students open up many lively possibilities for the extension of relationships and validation of my students new ways of being. I believe this brief moment sparked his desire to engage in storytelling. The modern way of sharing about experiences. Even though this kind of digital inter crossing opens up a lot scary risks that need to be very carefully managed, and I realize how much the boundaries need to be very clearly defined. I am completely open to the possibilities.