Children Today, Am I Right?

Children today don’t know how to communicate face-to-face. They never read. All you ever see is the tops of their heads. Thumbs gliding across phone screens.

Add to the list. You know you want to.

Sprinkle on some “when I was in school” for good measure.

Teaching like a teacher means not imbibing on this faculty-room toxic brew. All of the above comments —and anything you might have added in— are code for “I just want more control of my students so they’ll sit there, smile, shut up and listen.”

Here’s a fact: when you were in school, your teachers said the same things about you “children today.” Replace text messages or snapchats with notes written on paper, and i’s dotted with little hearts.

Another fact: when these children today become adults, they’ll also complain about children today. And so on, and so on…

Something else I remind myself of from time to time…Children haven’t changed over time. That is, the kids who will sit in front of me in a couple of weeks are not the same human beings who sat there 20 years ago. While this is a “no duh” kind of comment, it’s important to recognize this.

When children today walk into a classroom, they’re not thinking, “Nobody had cell phones 25 years ago, but I’m going to snap my friends in class today because I’m not well-behaved like those students of yesteryear.” No, they are just living life as they have always known it. Living in the world that adults today have presented to them.

Chew on that for a minute.

Then wash it down with this: By the very nature of their use of screens, children today read and write more than we ever did. Way more.

Further, I don’t understand the attack on their critical thinking skills, especially with regards to their access to technology. Don’t confuse memorizing stuff with critical thinking. Critical thinking is ripping apart an idea, topic or notion and forming a judgment. Think of all the information that is available to children today at the swipe of a finger. They rip stuff apart with their BFFs and debate constantly. It just happens to be about mascara instead of mitochondria.

So, dear reader, teach like a teacher this year by empathizing with your students in all ways, but specific to this article, by understanding that their world doesn’t seep into their brains through boxy televisions or landline telephones. Instead, it flashes in through HD screens that fit in the palms of their hands.

And, fitting neatly with the previous Teach Like a Teacher article, how will you both create a classroom environment that allows children today to feel comfortable by focusing on their strengths and interests and prepares them to succeed in a world that looks less and less like it did when we were kids?

 

I’m just a regular old teacher. No cape, no eye patch. I have no synonyms for innovation but I do want to do my job as best as I can.

The Misuse of Screens

As today’s students gain more and more access to technology in the classroom, the issue of misuse of “screens” increases as well.

To illustrate, a story. Not from my classroom but my summer job. I drive for Uber. Recently, Uber introduced Uber Eats in my area. If you’re not familiar, Uber Eats is a ride for your dinner. Or lunch.

My first Uber Eats experience took me to McDonald’s. I would be delivering lunch to a bank teller working about a mile and a half away from the restaurant. After I accepted the delivery on my phone, the app flashed directions to McDonald’s on to my screen, and then instructions on how to obtain the order once I got there.

I pulled into a parking spot, removed my phone from the cradle suction-cupped to the windshield and headed in. I guess I hadn’t been inside a McDonalds for a while, because I was surprised at what I found. Patrons weren’t queued up at the registers. Instead, they entered their orders at a series of poster-sized tablets on stilts. Why have the employees enter the order on their register screen second-hand when the diner can do it for themselves on an interactive menu?

(Sidenote: traditional face-to-face ordering is still available)

The cashier asked me for the order number, which I read off my phone, and she typed into her screen. A moment later, I was walking back to my car, the bank teller’s lunch in my hands.

Before I could drive to the bank, I had to press a few buttons to confirm that the order pick up went well. Then the first of the directions to the bank showed up. Two rights, a left, and another right later, I was in the bank parking lot. I delivered the food in the lobby, confirmed by hitting the check mark on my phone screen, and hit the road in hopes of scoring another customer.

To complete the story, remember that the bank teller used his phone to access the Uber app, tapped his screen a bunch of times to both order his lunch and give me a five-star rating.

The misuse of technology and screens I referred to at the beginning of this post falls at the hands of the teachers, not the students. We can’t ignore that fact that screens and technology and a world of information are in our students’ hands at all times. It’s fine to allow students to use smartphones as electronic dictionaries, but it’s not enough to replace something made of paper with a device.

“But they’ll just look up the answer in, like, two seconds on their phone,” you might say. Then why are we making them memorize it?

“Screens are everywhere, all the time. But my room is going to be a break from that.” Um, ok, but, what are we preparing them for?

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equiped to deal with a world that no longer exists — Eric Hoffer

This year I vow to learn alongside my students. From my students. I’m not only going to corporate technology in lessons. I’m going to encourage students to lead the way through their screens. To do anything different is to prepare students for a world that no longer exists.

Throw away those numbered phone-collection pouches and join me. Harnessing the power of technology is crucial to teaching like a teacher in 2018. 

It’s your turn…

What do you think? Do you agree with Mr Middlesworth or not? Let us know below in the comment section.

I’m just a regular old teacher. No cape, no eye patch. I have no synonyms for innovation but I do want to do my job as best as I can.