What’s Our Excuse?

This past weekend I set up a Google account for my daughter, Sidney.  She is under 13, but I am monitoring what she does, who she emails and who she shares things with from her account.  Sidney has friends in California, Arizona, Maryland and Pennsylvania, who she wants to keep in touch with through email.  She has been pen pals with these girls for 3 years and I felt it was time to give her a new way to be in touch with them.  After adding the girls’ emails to her account, she sent them all messages.  Then she asked about Google Docs.

Sidney has seen me using Google Apps in my teaching life to work with students, write sub plans and collaborate with colleagues.  She has seen how powerful Google Apps are and she wanted to get started. I showed her how to start a new document and how to share it with me.  We were both on the doc and I wrote something from another computer.  Her eyes lit up!  She continued with writing her story about how Darth Vader comes to Hogwarts.  I’m not sure where that is going, but I can tell you that my daughter opened my eyes to just what a 3rd grade student can do when given the tools.

While I was making dinner, Sidney started a Google Presentation about recycling.  She came out to the kitchen to inform my that she shared her presentation with me and she added a video.  “You added a video?” Do you remember how hard it used to be to add video to Microsoft Power Point?  It was so volatile and you never knew if your Power Point would crash in the middle of the presentation because the video was to big and bloated the file.  I remember those days with fear and trepidation.  But my 8 year old daughter just added a video to her 5 page presentation about recycling.  I had to see it.  So I opened it up and immediately thought, what is our excuse from letting kids create this way?  It’s not rocket science.  It’s so much more simplistic then that. Sidney was pleased with herself and I was impressed that she figured it out.

Sidney quickly when back to start another presentation on Matisse.  This really opened my eyes to natural lessons about Digital Citizenship and how to find images that work with a presentation.  Sidney was adding images she had searched for in Google and they were not all Matisse images.  It was so natural to have this conversation with her about knowing what you are looking for and verifying that you have indeed found it. It seems to me that in school we often make up scenarios of how/when this type of thing could happen and teach students from those made up scenarios.  But if we are doing real life work with them then the real life conversations will ensue.

I would not say that either of Sidney’s presentations follow any rules and Seth Godin might think there are too many words on a slide, but that is not the point in all of this.  The point is that I did not have to teach my daughter anything about the tools.  She picked them up and started using them.  The instruction that took place was more about thinking through the process of creating, verifying sources and sharing information she knew.

My excuse for not working with my students in the way I worked with my daughter has been permission.  It still is. We have not been given permission, as elementary teachers, to use Google Apps with our students on a regular basis.  I believe times are changing here.  At least that is the sense I’m getting.  There is so much we can be teaching students in real world, real time incidents that will make a more lasting impression than “once upon a time” type lessons.

Do we really have an excuse anymore?


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