When I was a kid, my opinion of computers was that they were for nerds only. And, according to me, I wasn’t a nerd (despite mum telling me it was nerds who succeeded in life)! Consequently, I fiercely resisted any new technology that came into vogue over the following few years. I even paid someone at university to type my hand-written assignments. In fact, I only began using a computer when I started teaching back around the turn of the century. It didn’t take me long, however, to get sold on the whole gig. Computers and the Internet: where had you been all my life?
Fast forward to 2014. Technology is everywhere. And, despite being at the cutting edge of using ICT in education as a LEARNZ virtual field trip teacher for CORE Education, I still find myself resisting its application in education. Weird huh! Actually, not really. I am, after all, a Digital Immigrant.
As Digital Immigrants learn … they always retain, to some degree, their "accent,"— that is, their foot in the past.… Today’s older folk were "socialised" differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And, a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain (Prenksy, 2001).
So, there are two things to take on board here: First, that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself given my “accent”; second, that I am now actually part of the “older folk”! But seriously, I’m sure I am not alone in this experience, which, despite being somewhat comforting, is not exactly helpful to the so-called Digital Natives — “our students today (who) are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet” (Prenksy, 2001).
But, even though I have one foot in the past, I have the ability to seek new ways of teaching and learning by testing the waters with the toes I have free. That is after all, how I began using LEARNZ as a classroom teacher in the first place. And so, it also was that I began my venture into the Twittersphere.
Don’t get me wrong, using Twitter is not something that came easily or naturally. As a digital immigrant I had many questions about its usefulness, relevance, and, well, how to actually do it (they call it “tweeting” by the way)! Not to mention the fact that I had pooh poohed the whole Twitter thing right from the outset. Similar to the likes of Sam McNeil from St Andrew’s College (@samuelmcneil – this is his “twitter handle”) who said: “For so long I’ve rejected “social media” as a frivolous waste of time and something I was not going to engage with in any meaningful way, let alone for work related purposes.” Whatever its raison d'être, one cannot deny Twitter’s popularity. A quick search on the Internet will also quickly point out its usefulness as a tool for education engagement and learning.
Anyway, I discovered that Twitter is no big deal after all. What I mean by that is two things: First, that for today’s Digital Natives, using Twitter is quite normal. Second, it really wasn’t that hard to get started — once you get started, that is. And that’s the key really — just giving tools like Twitter a go and seeing what doors they might open, kind of like how we ask our students to take risks with their learning.
I am still only in the early stages of embracing this social media phenomenon. But, already I have realised its power to reach out and inspire. By tweeting from the field on LEARNZ virtual field trips I have created a sense of immediacy with those who dare to follow me. I am making connections with students who are also tweeting their thoughts and learning related to the field trip inquiry topic.
Don’t let your “accent” get in the way of giving IT tools like Twitter a go in the classroom. You might be surprised at just how easy and effective they are — though, I doubt your students will be.