Shift Happens – NCTE Conference
Nov 16, 2008
Over the next week, thousands of English teachers will head to a conference in one of my favorite towns in the world, San Antonio, to discuss literacy. This conference, titled “Shift Happens” and sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English, will focus the rising need for media literacy in the classroom.
It’s interesting to see the magic of technology sweeping into classrooms where pen and paper have always reigned. Some of my English teacher colleagues embrace technology, others only tolerate it. The fear of giving up the love of novels for reading the written text on a screen leaves some feeling a sense of sadness. Some of my education-counterparts often scoff at media as the pet rock, just a fad that will go away if we ignore it long enough. Instead of looking at technology with dread, I think we need to embrace it as a natural offshoot of the written word. Technology can help us reach more students in our goal to have a literate world.
I often ask my teaching counterparts to look at this new tool as an extension of expression. While the good old book report might still have its place in a classroom, a Photo Story report on the same book might work equally well and enable the child to feel accomplished in a new arena. The important thing to remember is that technology offers something new and different: A new “tool” in our teacher tool belt to assist students to love the written word.
The influx of global technology also allows students a new way to communicate with each other. We’ve entered a new day when students hundreds of miles away can discuss thematic ties to a novel. The wonder of technology helps our students make real world connections to the text with students they might otherwise never meet. This is most evident in forums like our Leaky Lounge, where for many years fans of the Harry Potter series have been able to discuss the novel in a “global book club” format. Blogs, vlogs and podcasts like our PotterCast are mediums that our students thrive on and enjoy creating and listening too. I’ve witnessed many wonderful book discussions from students discussing a novel over a Skype chat and recording it. Not only did these students have to read the book assigned, but they then had to read and master the technology to complete the podcast.
Technology in a classroom also gives many kids a new way to shine. Often more technology savvy then their teachers, I’ve seen otherwise quiet or disinterested students turn on when they hear they get to use a laptop to design a presentation or complete a web quest. It’s wonderful to see a student actively engaged with a medium they love and feel so comfortable with.
I personally don’t picture the wave of technology in the classroom as ever replacing the written text. I do see that it might change the way some of us read that text and how we use that information later. Technology offers a new and wonderful way to help actively engage students.
I’m looking forward to meeting people and getting new ideas over the next week at “Shift Happens.” If you are going to be there, I’ll be the nerdy looking English teacher with my Mac out blogging about my experience!