Lesson #3: Marc Prensky got it all wrong
Marc Prensky’s famous and yet false binary that says our students are digital natives and the rest of us are digital immigrants has addled me for years. As -if- we needed to create any more barriers between us and our students….as if we needed to distance ourselves any further from our students. They are more like us than we actually realize.
This semester in HISP 205-09 hammered home a point for me: students will use a tool if they are certain you, as the teacher, can explain to them what the tool will help them learn, see, discover, experience. Do you have research to back that up? They will want to see it. Can you prove that you are not wasting their time? They’ve been burned before by well-intentioned and poorly-executed tech infusions…how can they be sure that this won’t be the case here as well? Huh?
My students this semester were mini 50 yr olds. They are skeptical, busy, harried consumers of education. Yup… education is now a consumer good for our financially strapped students and their families. Faculty need to get used to their hard questions, especially if your class is an elective.
Some background: Each of my students had to come up with three personal language goals or “metas lingüisticas” in the class. The first was to be the easiest, the second a bit more of a stretch, the third…something more long term, something for the future. Metas 1 & 2 needed to build towards 3. Only two requirements: #1 each student had to make contact with a native speaker to move towards those goals (in any way they felt comfortable doing so) and #2 they had to blog about it on their class blogs
I spent class time showing them some of the tools (they didn’t like this…they wanted class time for speaking, I was soundly “learned” by them and I won’t make that mistake again!). They included Skype +Mixxer, Ways to find blogs in Spanish, ways to use Second Life to talk w/native speakers, and how to play World of Warcraft on European servers with Spaniards and using the Spanish language pack.
My students found Skype +The Mixxer extremely useful. There were immediate, tangible, focused benefits. Most of them had no qualms about setting up a language exchange with a complete stranger and doing so outside of class.
Second Life, however…that creeped most of them out. I had thought that having an avatar would help them visualize their interactions better. Nope, most of them were quite happy being a disembodied voice at the other end of a Skype call in Spanish**
(** which of course we know is MUCH harder than a face to face conversation, but time and time again they chose making mistakes with complete strangers, rather than having those mistakes following them throughout the rest of their day, week, semester here on campus)
And I did not have any gamers in this class so WoW turned out not to be an option (I did have another student from a 2nd year class come to the lab and play… basically, starting over from the beginning and running raids she had done before in English, now in Spanish and with Spanish speakers. She enjoyed it)
Did they take to the technology like fish to water because they were under 30 yrs of age? oh heck no. They chose tools that made sense for them — based on their comfort level and their intended outcomes in the language and the course.
And the results were remarkable.
Up next: Lesson # 4 or, what I learned about assessment