Increasingly, students are not only becoming acclimated to the digital world and its tools, they are surpassing the competency of the adults around them. This forces us to make a decision as educators: embrace the digital world or ignore it. The option is actually a false one as choosing to ignore technology is a losing option. The students who have access to it will not ignore it and thus education will be forced to compete with digital technology, while the students who cannot afford the technology will be left unexposed to it and thus not learn how to use it to the same degree as their peers.
So, while research supports the value of handwriting and slow reading–best done with books as opposed to digital media and readers–it is clear that the digital tools must be integrated. This can be as simple as allowing students to Tweet about works in progress, assigning students to design useful websites on historical persons or events, using role-playing games or assigning students to create such games, geo-caching or other scavenger hunts utilizing History Pin or Google maps, create fake Facebook pages for historical figures, etc., etc. If you are not so confident in your own skills, enlist the aid of others, including the students themselves (many of the ideas I just suggested can be found in posts on my blog).
Don’t remove students from the library, but be prepared to grant increased access to the historical eras you are teaching by means of digital access points and tools. Don’t cut them off from the art museums that showcase humanity’s history, but allow them use of the internet to build their content-knowledge before they look at stone-carved hieroglyphs. Don’t give up on books and paper maps, but allow students to also explore an historical era through a role-playing video game.
Use the technological skills of one class to help you develop technological tools for next year’s class. In enlisting their help in teaching with technology they will learn more. And, so will you.
Enjoy the short, below, and make use of the resources and activities I have amassed at my site (including posts for retaining the use of paper!), especially in my posts in the, “Experiencing History – Project Based Learning,” category and its sub-categories. You should also check out the resources at http://historytech.wordpress.com/ and http://teachinghistory.org/. For more from, “The Digital Generation,” by Edutopia, visit the website: http://www.edutopia.org/digital-generation.