Both eyes open . . .

In the mid 1990s I considered myself to be quite proficient with technology integration in my first grade classroom. I applied for and was granted the opportunity to be a “Classroom of Tomorrow Today”. I received four Apple desktop computers to help me teach my students how to keyboard and practice academic skills. At the time integrating technology into the classroom included making computers accessible in the classroom and not isolated in a computer lab. Later, I participated in summer technology camps for teachers and even helped facilitate one. I taught my first graders how to make amazing KidPix slideshows that demonstrated not only their skills with the computer program, but reading, writing, and math skills as well! I was so excited when the iMacs entered my classroom in the later nineties, then the World Wide Web . . . and then life happened. You know, the crises that enter our personal lives outside of the workplace happen–divorce, parent illness . . . just life. And, my focus necessarily changed from those “extras” at school to home, from being a more innovative and cutting edge teacher to one who managed what were considered the more “essentials” of teaching elementary children.

In retrospect that time of crises seems like a “blink of the eye”, but during that “blink” a lot happened in the world of technology! Of course, like most people, I saw what seemed to be a whirlwind of change in our now very digital world. In the past few years and presently, I am learning to effectively use a SmartBoard and iPads as tools in my classroom. Today my first graders pick up an iPad with no apprehension and navigate their way through apps with little to no instruction. They “get” how to physically use the tool, but need guidance towards best usage to support their learning. And, they need a teacher who has “both eyes open” to the reality that her students need her to guide and instruct them as they develop their digital literacy as an integrated part of the school day. Using technology tools and digital communication is not an “extra” or a cutting edge innovation just to “try out” any longer.

Now, what seems to be a sort of “epiphany” that I just described is really not altogether new to me. In recent years as I teach using the tools of technology, I mindfully follow the instruction of my school’s technology specialist making sure that my students are digitally safe and using quality apps that are age appropriate. However, I have felt there is a “disconnectedness” or lack of natural flow between my daily instruction and digital literacy. Yes, I can blame not having enough iPads available all the time. But I can’t help but wonder . . . if I had six pencils in the room,  could I make sure all children got to use one at some point in the day? As a digital immigrant, it helps me to make analogies to older technologies! And, yes, I absolutely could maximize the use of those pencils. So, why aren’t tools for engaging in digital literacy optimally integrated into my students’ school day? Is availability of iPads more of a factor than I realize? Is it because it is too expensive for my school to pay for more apps that would offer more instructional options? Is the fact that I am a digital immigrant who has a lower degree of automaticity in using these tools playing a part in that “disconnectedness” between daily instruction and digital literacy?

That last question is the one that has made me stop and reflect on my teaching practice most. And this reflection with “both eyes open” starts a new journey in my teaching career. My discoveries and learning on this journey will be the subjects of my future blog posts. I welcome any comments with helpful insights and guidance along the way!


4 thoughts on “Both eyes open . . .

  1. thomasunc September 18, 2016 / 12:36 pm

    Your post gives me insight to my classroom struggles.
    Two comments about your post.
    1. Your personal voice comes through in your writing.
    2. I find too find a correlation between me and the “disconnectedness” of technology and digital literacy. I use it because that is the goal. I find it helpful and I know the kids are learning. My disconnectedness comes in when I begin thinking about “authentic”. It is like being a dancer. I can teach most anyone the steps. But the true test is when you watch someone. Some people do the moves, other folks dance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nataliergf September 21, 2016 / 2:39 am

      What a great analogy! As I am learning more about digital literacy, I am finding that there are more opportunities for the authentic use of technology than I once knew. This awareness I believe can be the beginnings of smoother moves on the dance floor!


  2. leighahall September 18, 2016 / 5:30 pm

    I would encourage you to move away from the digital native/immigrant dichotomy. It’s a popular and pervasive idea that doesn’t really hold up. I teach plenty of undergrads that are technically natives but fall under the immigrant description. I suggest considering what the previous comment says – focus on thinking about authenticity in the use of technology. It is absolutely a dance! I just had to make revisions to an assignment because I realized it was horribly inauthentic. However, when I wrote it out I didn’t recognize that at first. As we grow, our understandings shift. Give yourself space to shift in your teaching.

    So…part of my message is to be kind to yourself, and cut yourself some slack. Know you are where you need to be and keep moving.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nataliergf September 21, 2016 / 2:13 am

      Thank you for helping me to focus on the authentic use of technology and my space on the “dance floor”. Being authentic in my teaching practice supports moving from the feelings of intimidation and lacking to the excitement of possibilities!


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