“Mom, why do you look so creepy in this picture?” said my 9-year-old son.

“Well, when I was young you couldn’t see the pictures before you had them developed,” I replied.

“What does ‘developed’ mean?” he asked.

What a great reminder of how times have changed. I feel old saying that, but it is so true. I am not old though, because rather than lament the changing times, I embrace them and try to understand what it means for our children.

My 9-year-old-son never lived in a world without remote controls, cell phones and YouTube, much less having to wait for a photo to be developed before viewing it.

Let me state this clearly again, I am NOT old. However, I did learn how to type on a typewriter, I remember the excitement when we got a long cord for our cable box so it could reach the couch, and we had rotary phones in our house when I was a kid.

Now our children have can watch practically anything they want at any time on YouTube, their parents have remote start on their cars, they can see a photo as it is being taken. They live in a world of immediate gratification. Wait, actually, WE also live in a world of immediate gratification. What does this mean for our future? What does this mean for schools?

I had a similar conversation with my 9-year-old a few weeks earlier when he asked me if we had YouTube when I was younger. I told him that we didn’t even have the internet (don’t forget, I am NOT old). He said, “Wait, you couldn’t even google things?” The idea of not having information at our fingertips is not something he can even comprehend.

When I walk into classrooms and see desks in rows or groups and hear conversations similar to the ones we had when I was a child, part of me feels nostalgic and happy that not everything has changed. I love that they are learning things that they would not be exposed to in the world outside of school. That we open their minds to history, nature, classic works of literature and playing with each other IRL (‘in real life’ for those of us who remember 8-tracks).

There is another part of me, one that wonders how we can do more to make sure that the learning we are providing students is relevant in today’s world of immediate gratification. I think about how I learn best, and it is truly through being connected that my mind is opened to new ideas and ways of thinking. Those connections happen in person, in reading books and through social media. The fact that I can learn what others are doing across the nation, across the world, makes being connected on social media so powerful.

Skyping with authors, connecting with other classes on Twitter, having students write blogs so their writing has real authentic audiences are just some of the things we are exploring to get our students connected. We know we need to continue moving in this direction–not only for the benefit of student academic achievement, but to also make sure we keep students excited about school and engaged by making learning meet them where they are.

How are you embracing what our students need in the 21st century? How are you getting your students connected?

Let’s collaborate on Twitter: @allysonapsey

 

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