From August to May, I spend my days with absolute natives, and these natives can get mighty restless! These are not uncivilized natives, mind you; my students are digital natives. Their restlessness has less to do with technology than hormones, but they sometimes get frustrated by technology-poor classes. As a digital immigrant, I perceive the world somewhat differently and approach challenges using different skills. You could say the natives and I speak different languages.
While some of my peers have been soaking up sun this summer–and collecting sand between their toes–I’ve been learning to create a digital biology classroom. The class needed an overhaul anyway, so revamping it digitally wasn’t really any more challenging than it would’ve been otherwise. In fact, I was excited by the idea. Despite my immigrant label, I’m a new experience junkie, and I’m somewhat fascinated with new technology. It’s the scientist in me.
After researching and selecting a learning management system and reconsidering course objectives, I posted a couple weeks of lessons for the beginning of school. Come August 23, we’ll be ready to roll. It won’t be perfect, but I’ll depend on student feedback to help hone the course, just as I’ve always done. Meanwhile, students will hone their computer skills and I’ll help them develop the critical thinking skills necessary to effectively navigate the world of science online. If they can teach me to understand their approach to learning biology, then I’ll consider it a fair exchange.
It’s been nice having time to do the research I never seem to get around to during the school year, and I’m hoping the work I’ve done will ease the burden of class prep for the first few weeks of school. I predict by fall break, I’ll be neck deep in the swamps of teen angst again, but I’ll wade through it. After five years, I’ve begun to trust that students will learn more or less what they should, in spite of some false starts and occasionally remapping the route. Quite often, we start out to learn one thing and end up learning something different, but equally (or more) important. And that’s as it should be. If I didn’t adapt lessons and strategies to what students need or want to know, I might as well pack my bags and head to Tahiti. At least in Tahiti, the natives are entertaining, what with their grass skirts and ukuleles.
For now, I plan to finish tweaking all seven of my courses for fall and begin packing those bags for California. Classes start in a little more than a month, but I’ll spend the last week before school soaking up some sun in Hermosa Beach and playing with my grandsons. There’s nothing like digging in the sand with a couple of energetic, curious little boys to take your mind off the end of summer vacation.