This is the latest in a series of blog posts by a partnering cohort member.
By: Anastasia Klemm
When I was first approached to be involved in the Fluency Project, I was both very excited about the concept, but also anxious about the scope in how I was going to incorporate it. I first thought about my students I would have the upcoming year. We were just in a training on Chromebooks as the 6th grade teachers were to pilot a 1:1 innovation initiative to give every student a Chromebook for use in school. In today’s world students do not have to memorize definitions or equations as they can look them up at any time on their phones or other devices. I remember when I was in my K-12 education (which was not THAT long ago) our teachers would always tell us that we had to learn this information because there would be no way to just instantly look up information in the real world. Now, this was during the late 90’s to early 2000’s when I was a student. The internet was just becoming a thing in the world, and most people did not have it. We first were able to have internet in my house when I was about 14 years old (2005), and even then, it was very slow and required to be hooked into a phone jack in the wall. Of course, my young-self believed this to be truth then. There would be no way if I was in the real world to find a slow-moving computer plugged into a wall to research information. In just 5 years from when we first were able to have internet, the smart phone became cheaper to afford and own, and then 5 years after that, almost everyone I knew had constant internet and app access right in their pocket.
Children we are teaching today literally do not know a world without these devices. Those who have known a life without them sometimes scoff or demean these children for relying on them so much. However, personally I believe that to be unfair. It is easy for us who have known life without these devices to conceptualize life without them, but our students today cannot. Technology is only going to expand what we can do, and not limit it, so we as teachers need to understand what our new priorities are. Instead, we need to teach our students how to use this technology for good and to further their knowledge as opposed to letting them find for themselves how dangerous it can be. When I was working for WLU as a G.A. the professors found that the incoming students knew how to use apps and social media very well, but did not know how to send an email, save a document, or navigate an informational site. That is now a necessary skill for ANY field of work, and I think that is becoming more necessary to teach than memorization of facts.
The concept that struck me most when I first joined in the summer was the concept of giving students a choice in what they learn. That was so incredibly powerful to me, because that is sort of the way the world works today. We can choose what we WANT to learn because of the almost limitless access to information. Learning is starting to evolve into, this is what I WANT to learn to be successful, as opposed to this is what I NEED to learn to be successful. We as teachers need to be there to teach them the necessary skills to be able to learn what it is they want to learn about, and provide them with the resources and support they need. For instance, a student may watch an animation and wonder, how do they make that? That student could then research animation and discover that it is not just drawing pictures (art), but involves coding, storyline development (reading), geometric skills (math), and the understanding of a culture(history), and the physics of movement (science). It is taking an interest and then teaching the main subjects we still need to (and should) teach, but in a way that is meaningful and powerful to them.