Teaching

When they ask for creative, just not computer creative

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A student told me she wanted to be creative, just “not computer creative.” It was a reality check, reminding me that not every lesson has to be technology-rich to have impact. (Flickr / Navy Hale Keiki School)

It hit me a couple days ago. It hit me on a day when things were going really well in all of my classes.

I was finding new ways to give my students choice, from choosing vocabulary for their lists in Spanish class to helping pick activities for lesson plans that week. (Recently, I decided that my one-word mission statement for the rest of the school year would be “voice” or “choice” for my students.)

I was finally hitting my stride after winter break.

(Side note: For some reason, on breaks longer than a week, I dread returning to school in fear that I’ve forgotten how to teach well. I’m not sure why this happens, but after summer break and winter break every year, I’m nervous that I’ve lost it for the first week or so of class. After that, I can feel that I’m back and life is back to normal.)

I had just finished a great class of conversations completely in Spanish during my Advanced Placement Spanish class. And just before the bell rang, I overheard one of my students talking about what she wanted to do in my class.

She said, “I want to be creative, just not computer creative.”

Boom. There it was.

“Not computer creative.”

I’m a guy who loves incorporating technology. I embrace creating a classroom that turns the previously inconceivable into the totally possible.

I mean, I kind of wanted to cuddle with the Chromebooks I got this school year for my classroom. (For the record, I did not.)

I pride myself on hosting a technology-rich, efficient class environment.

And then a student drops that bomb as she’s walking out of class … she wants to be “not computer creative.”

I really grappled with this one for a couple days. At first, I wanted to dismiss this student’s comment. “It was just an casually dropped line to friends,” I rationalized. “Maybe she didn’t mean it. Maybe she didn’t mean it like that.”

“Plus, it’s only one student. What kind of representative sample is that of the entire student population?”

This one passing comment made me go back to some fundamentals of teaching. Students learn in different ways, and it’s our job to help our students find them and learn with them as best as we can.

Some of my students love using technology. In fact, today — on the first day of my school’s “bring your own technology” rollout — one student was doing some multi-device work, looking up information on one device and entering data with another. Those guys can’t get enough. They’re probably in the minority, though.

Also in the minority — the ones that hate all technology. One girl that took Spanish from me for three years took every opportunity to tell me that she didn’t like using our computers and thought that all technology hated her, even her cell phone.

Those two groups may be in the minority, but they deserve to be represented.

A favorite catch phrase of many educators in online spaces and at conferences today is this: “Technology is a tool, not a learning outcome.”

My thoughts exactly. It’s a tool. More importantly, it’s not the only tool.

So, what am I going to do about this reality check? I’m going back to the drawing board. I’m going to find ways to help this specific girl be “not computer creative.” Plus, I’m going to find ways to let my other classes be “not computer creative” as well.

Why? It’s my classroom after all, right?

Well, not exactly. It may be my classroom, but it’s their education. If I’m investing in my students’ future (which is what we really do as teachers), I need to find what connects with them.

I’m not going to blow this comment off or let it slide off my back.

This student’s comment was a gift. A gift that she gave me that she didn’t even realize that she gave me.

She gave me a glimpse … a glimpse into what motivates her and what she wants her education to look like.

And shame on me if I take that gift for granted.

Let’s do some more “not computer creative.”

[reminder]What place does “not computer creative” have in classrooms? How do we manage the balance between it and incorporating game-changing technology?[/reminder]

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