I have on several occasions been approached on the subject of teaching blog skills. Often the parents or teachers are interested in learning to use the technology and then teach it to the youth. In today’s digital world, most young people have no fear of technology, the internet, browsers, or web sites. In fact, many times it is the adult that is challenged when learning new technology. In this regard, it is difficult for me to prescribe that a parent or teacher always learn the technology tool first and then teach it to the child.
The best teachers and leaders I have known are those that are comfortable with being both a teacher and a learner. They easily accept the fact that the younger people will many times learn it quicker or will already know it better. If parents and teachers can “let go” of the need to be the expert, they can engage their child’s digital native behaviors in the learning process.
Elizabeth Delmatoff, my partner and technology teacher at George Middle School in Portland, Oregon , has taken this approach in her classroom. She has found it engages the students to learn the technology to expert levels and then demonstrate and instruct class members on how the new technology works. She gets the added benefit of learning right along with others in the class. Her focus is on spent pushing the subject matter through the new technology as the class and teacher learn the techniques together.
Take the case of “Prezi”. Prezi is a non-linear presentation tool; a sort of really cool slide show builder. I introduced Elizabeth to Prezi earlier this year. Her approach to teaching Prezi was to assign learning the tool as a group project. The objective of the activity was to create a finished Prezi. Each student had to learn one aspect of how to make a Prezi and demonstrate it to the group, in order. At the end of one session, the entire class had a good handle on how the tool worked and what they could do with it. Their next step was to build one individually. Here’s an example of a great Prezi that came from one of the 6th grade students in that class.
The upside of learning new technology in a cooperative learning format is that the tool will be usable in short order. It creates a sense of wonder and excitement to be allowed to ‘play’ with the tools immediately. Students love the opportunity to learn the tool in depth and demonstrate their knowledge to their class and teacher. It may seem an “upside-down” approach to many, but often times it is the more productive way. Parents and teachers can focus on the depth and understanding of the subject matter rather than the delivery of technical instructions.
As a final note, I strongly recommend teachers teach and use Prezi in the classroom. It’s non-linear approach to presentations is a great option for young minds. It mimics the way children see order, as their imagination is rarely linear. Fostering the imagination is how innovation and creative thinking starts.