Digital; Literally

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So, this is Valla. Yes, he gave me permission to use his likeness because that’s what responsible digital citizens do. He’s Iranian and he’s very, very skeptical. You can just see it in his face, can’t you? When the Principal (me) decided to create a digital literacy course with another teacher AND teach it, there was enough skepticism for everyone.

Who is this guy and what does he think he is doing? I knew on the first day of class there was going to be trouble.

Okay, so a Principal stepping back into the class isn’t new. Maybe new because we have no curriculum for this digital thing, but no one else wanted or could do it and I just couldn’t let it die on the vine.

Back to Valla. He was really skeptical. He probably knows more about technology than I and he really was not in the mood.

That’s when I dumped the legos. All over the floor. He was still skeptical but he was curious.

I gave them ten minutes to build something that expressed themselves. It was my experimental “in” to build some street cred. Several built little houses. A couple tried to build car type of things. Valla built a perfectly aligned skyscraper, with windows, towers, and even a weathervane that he found in the pile. It was brilliant. When he held it up, his peers said it was his ‘evil tower from which he was going to control the world.’ Whatever, he smiled.

Did I mention that the students are Seniors? Yes, that’s right.

So, after the lego exercise we talked about expression, communication, messages we want to send about ourselves and our thoughts to others (I think you get the connection to social media and technology by now), and we had a few laughs.

I am going to bring this story home by saying I don’t care about how you engage kids or get them to understand the power of technology. I’ve reviewed a lot of digital literacy curriculum and, honestly, I think we’re missing the point. This cannot be another phase that gets ground up in the edu-machinery of vocabulary lists, horrible exercises and worksheets with phrases. This is a unique opportunity to really engage kids in an authentic learning experience. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around every day.

Please don’t blow it. Dump the legos on the floor and have fun. Learn about the people in front of you. And challenge them to make a difference.

After the class, I put Valla’s tower on my desk with pride. My boss saw me putting it on my desk and asked what I was doing.

I said, “teaching.”

About Stephen Dexter, Jr.

Stephen is an international educator and administrator. A native of the United States, he lives with his wife Stephanie and children Zoe and Ian in the Singapore. With a career that spans over twenty years in public, private and international schools, he writes when he can and is on a quest to discover if "text walking" is changing the human brain.
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