Digital Respons-Ability

Observations of Digital Learning in the Classroom

My favorite part of my job, being a digital educator and trainer, is going into classrooms and interacting with students and seeing how technology is used in the classroom. Most of the classrooms that I enter has at least a cart full of chrome books or iPad that the kids use. A lot of the time, there are multiple types of technology being used in aiding teaching. It’s great to see that even the youngest of students are adept at solving technological problems and use technology in ways that astound me.  

Because there is so much technology, not only being use by the students, but also the teachers, that makes it even more vital for the students to learn how to be safe when using technology. Most schools have exceptionally strong filters that help prevent kids from seeing inappropriate content or going on to non-school approved websites, but that makes me worried for when the students are not at school, without the airtight filter on their iPads. I have seen in some classrooms that I have taught in, a list of rules when using technology, and I think that is a wonderful thing! It is imperative that teachers are constantly reviewing the rules of the classroom, especially with the younger kids. I think this helps the students develop healthy technology using habits at a young age. When I was growing up, computer labs and computer carts were normal things to have in schools, but the internet just starting to flourish. I wish that within my elementary education that there was more structure and guidance on how to develop healthy technology habits.  

I have also noticed that there seems to be a strong correlation with teachers and educators who regular review the rules of the classroom and Educators that have great classroom management. Classroom management is something that I am very aware of when I visit schools and teach in classrooms. Teachers with strong classroom management tend to teach their students more effectively and can better communicate with and regulate their students. It is amazing how much respect the students have for their teacher and presenters when there are set expectations and great classroom management. I truly believe that classroom management has something to do with helping students develop healthy technology usage habits. In these classrooms that I visit, the students who I interact with in more structured and well managed classrooms are always more willing to share, participate, and often tell me about their healthy technology habits that they implement at home. These students seem to have more limited screen time and only play video games with their friends that they have met in person. Call me crazy, but these kids seem to really take home the rules that their teacher taught in class.  

One of my favorite type of schools to visit is dual immersion schools. I, myself, am a lover of languages and am currently working on learning my fourth. It is so impressive to see the talents of not only the students, but the teachers and educators at these schools. The energy at these schools is electrifying. Usually at these schools they also have a little bit more interaction with technology. They are using programs to learn language principles, learn vocabulary, and work out difficult grammar. Once, while in one of these schools, I found myself in a swarm of first graders with their heads buried in their iPad, walking down the hall. They were too immersed in their Chinese character writing practice to even noticed they were bumping into me! While it was cute to see these first graders mastering character stroke orders, it worried me that kids that young were acting like me when I walk one room to another, too absorbed in my phone to notice something happening.  

These immersion students are especially trained on how to properly use technology because of how much they use in the classroom. The dual immersion schools that I have taught at, have a strong understanding of what is expected at school and when it is appropriate to use technology at school. I think that technology use in language focused schools is key to ensuring that students are fluent and making progress. These kids also are usually more aware of how to be safe on the internet.  

Something that I worry about the most when I talk to students is talking to strangers while playing video games. I always think about this when I see students using technology. It’s hard to avoid the topic of video games, especially when talking to an elementary student. Because so much of our world is online, including classrooms, it seems like a normal thing to talk to just anyone online. That is one of the drawbacks of having so much technology in the classroom: Students are too comfortable chatting with people online.  

I have spoken to a class of kindergarteners and over half the class raised their hand when I asked the question if they had played video games with strangers. Young children are talking to adult strangers online and are often not taught by their parents what is ok and what is not ok to share with strangers, or even that they shouldn’t be playing with strangers. If I had one piece of advice as an observer in the classroom, it would be to emphasize that young student should not be talking to strangers. On or off the internet. Having technology in the classroom is an excellent resource, we just need to make sure that healthy habits and rules are being implemented at home as well as at school.  

Written by Digital Respons-Ability Trainer