This summer, my husband and I are traveling to Europe for the first time. We are a bit anxious about our ability to communicate in a foreign country. But wait! I have experience with that. You see, I am a technology immigrant. I was not born into technology, unless you consider mimeograph machines, adding machines or hi-fi stereos as technology.
The challenge is that every day I’m communicating with technology natives. My students were born with TV remotes, video game joysticks, smart phones and fast computers at their fingertips. One of the primary pathways of communication for college students is technology. Which means I’d better learn their language.
So how do we learn to communicate with these technology natives? The same way we learn a foreign language – observe, listen, read, learn, try, fail, try again and master.
I am fortunate to have four children in their 20s, and they are constantly challenging and teaching me new things. Every time I am with them, I watch them and ask them about what’s new in the world of technology. They are eager to share, and I’m willing to learn.
Their best nuggets of wisdom have been: “Mom, you have to play around with it” and “Just Google it.” I have learned a lot from clicking around on links and, when in a pickle, putting my question into the Google box. It’s amazing how many answers are out there for the asking.
Here are some suggestions about using technology to communicate with the technology natives in your classroom:
Use D2L. Learn one new function each semester, but at least use the basics like keeping students’ grades up to date, communicating via group emails and posting important content. That will enable your students to take responsibility for finding the next test date or term sheets and knowing where they stand grade-wise.
Use visuals. When reviewing a schedule, making an announcement or reinforcing a key point, make power point slides. It just takes a few minutes to gather interesting graphics from the Internet. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Jump into the world of social media. OK, Facebook has been around and it’s losing favor with the younger generation. (They say Facebook is for “old people.”) Don’t delete your FB account just yet, but try something new like Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Vine. You don’t need to communicate directly with students, but you can keep your finger on the pulse of their world.
Incorporate video. Youtube is a great source of interesting videos that can add to your lecture. A short movie can add a little spice to your lecture and get the technology natives’ attention.
Experiment with apps. Try out the latest app for your smart phone or tablet. This week I got Viber, an app that let me text, for free, with my son who was overseas on a college trip.
Make virtual connections. Invite guests to speak to your class via Skype, Facetime or Gchat. It’s a great way to link students to those in the “real world.” Both students and speakers come away invigorated.
Other ideas: create a QR code that, when scanned, opens links to articles or websites. Design a meme or use one to communicate a point. I haven’t done this yet, but my son’s college professor posts short videos on Youtube explaining various subjects. Wonder if I can get something to go viral?
So, technology immigrants, and even you younger technology natives, get communicating using some of the wonderful tools available. Remember, it’s like learning a foreign language – observe, listen, read, learn, try, fail, try again and master. And when all else fails, ask for help from Rhonda, Mark, one of your students or anyone under the age of 20!