A couple of weeks ago I attended the Iowa 1 to 1 Conference in Des Moines. The organizers had the good taste to hold it on my birthday. It was a really enjoyable day spent going to sessions, networking with vendors, and connecting with colleagues from across the state. While there were a number of good sessions: competency-based education, redesigning libraries to be 1 to 1 friendly, and sharing the technology IPI model were just a few. But, the session that got me thinking the most was on meeting the needs of millennial learners. Dr. Leigh Zeitz hosted this discussion.
Inside this session there was a lot of really engaging ideas. We discussed the concept of “flow” within any experience – particularly learning experiences. This is the idea represented by the notion of “time flying when you are having fun.” When flow is present, time feels different. I’m still wondering how you design for “flow” in learning. I’d be interested in hearing how others create learning with this in mind.
But, the conversation that really got me thinking was an idea presented by Angela Maiers. She asserts, and I whole-heartedly agree, that kids today are “tech comfy, but not tech savvy.” Simply put, kids intimately understand how to operate a lot of tech tools, but they don’t implicitly know how to leverage them for meaning and learning.
This concept really does a great job of framing the roles of adults and kids in how we design learning. There’s been so much written about children being digital natives and teachers being digital immigrants. While many adults do struggle with the tools that kids use intuitively, the comfy vs. savvy statement does add a great deal of clarity to the role and impact in of the teacher in the classroom. One of the main value-adds of teachers is the ability to transform students from merely being “comfy” into being “savvy.” The real beauty of this is that one does not need to be “comfy” with a tool to teach “savvy” use of it. Savvy comes from insight and experience.
After thinking about this more, it occurs to me that educators really need to own this distinction. Teachers should not apologies for not being tool “comfy.” I hear this all the time – “I’m not a techie… etc…” But, we should celebrate our skills at growing the “savvy” critical thinking in students. We can be assured of one immutable truth; tomorrow’s tools will change. However, the skills it takes grow and develop critical thought will stay fixed. So, let’s utilize students’ “comfy” tech skills to smooth out instruction. But, design experiences that require them to grow their “savvy.”