Generation Like and The Digital Diet

Recently, the Tech Knight had us watch a 2014 FRONTLINE film, Generation Like, which left me baffled as to the legitimacy of the quest this generation of students seems to be on- for digital likes.

Right off the bat, I’m prone to saying I DON’T UNDERSTAND what the thrill of it all is (700 likes on a Facebook profile picture?! Because, recently I generated 43 likes on one picture and thought that was pretty swell… apparently I was ghastly mistaken).

Yet, the reality of life in the 21st Century classroom is that our students are thriving and loving (or, should I say, liking) life in the ‘social web’. If we understand how and why our students are so obsessed with the ‘social web’ environment, we can use this knowledge to create a format for delivering instruction to students that will allow them to genuinely engage with the content, simultaneously promoting and practicing critical thinking skills. With a developed understanding of how students are using the ‘social web,’ comes the responsibility of offering students the opportunity to unplug and engage in a full range of experiences, within and beyond the classroom. Understanding how our students use the ‘social web’ helps us, as educators, prepare for instruction in a classroom full of tweets, texts, and technology.

There is no question that today’s students are immersed in a world of limitless, instantaneous interactions via the ‘social web’. As much as we may try to fight it, the ‘social web’ is invading our classrooms, with many schools and school districts instituting BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) or 1-1 laptop distribution programs. With these programs we give our students and ourselves access to information and resources that educators of the past could not have even dreamt of. However, we have to be able to understand the ‘social web’ our students are caught in to know how to effectively interact with them in the classroom, or we are simply embracing technology for technology sake. Educators can prepare for classroom instruction by embracing and engaging with the platforms that students are already using, gaining credibility with them (and, the education cyber world). Once functioning on the ‘social web,’ teacher-tailored technology can assimilate into instruction, to either coincide and fit with or question and challenge what students are doing within and beyond the classroom ‘social web’. As our schools as institutions catch the technology wave, our pedagogy and instructional methodology need to stay hip (as the teenagers say) to effectively reach the generation of learners cruising through our classrooms.

In preparing our classroom instruction to withstand the onslaught of our students’ ‘social webs,’ we take on the responsibility to lead students to understand that a balance must be struck between the online digital world and the ‘real’ world before them. Part of this entails making it clear to students that they have the option and ability to make the conscious decision to put their devices away when it is not the best tool. We need to understand how students use the ‘social web’ so that we can be prepared to offer solace from the constant infiltration and influx of technology. The advice in a 2011 Washington Post opinion article, The Digital Diet, is still relevant today; the author, Daniel Sieberg, asserts

“[I]t is time to make peace with all our gadgets and fold them into our lives more effectively. We need a strategy that that puts us back in control, rather than letting technology overwhelm us.”

As an educator to students who are members of Generation Like, it is important to give explicit instruction in how to unplug and detox from technology and their devices. As someone who is on the moderate side of device use and technology consumption on the ‘social web,’ I am able to see the value in “the digital diet,” and it is important that we communicate this philosophy to students. When you understand how students are using the ‘social web,’ you can prepare for how and when is a useful and appropriate method for classroom instruction- and then challenge students to decide.

In presenting content in a format similar to what they experience using the ‘social web,’ we help our students navigate the digital world using higher-order processing skills. However, the classic proverb from the Spiderman movies comes to mind when strategizing on how to integrate technology and the ‘social web’ into classroom instruction: with great power, comes great responsibility. With that in mind, it is ultimately our job to understand (the pros and cons) of students’ use of the ‘social web’ and develop healthy, balanced instruction for use in the classroom. Truth be told, in a classroom full of tweets, texts, and technology, understanding and embracing the obsession with the ‘social web’ can only better prepare an educator for classroom instruction.



FRONTLINE Generation Like

The Washington Post The Digital Diet




VSOL and ED554 Unit Plan

As the semester unfolds and I continue to ride the tech wave into a digital future, I will use state curriculum standards to serve as the focus for a unit plan, fully incorporating technology. To widen my experience with grade level and curriculum content, I have chosen to develop lesson plans and activities based around the following standard:

VS.5 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the role of Virginia in the American Revolution by

  1. identifying the reasons why the colonies went to war with Great Britain, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence;


While trying to navigate my way through building a unit plan integrated with technology, I will also aim to structure the lessons and activities around the 4C’s (for those of you not familiar with this educational buzzword, the 4C’s are: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity). By teaching and developing the 4C’s in our students, educators can help shape their students into well-rounded, tolerant, problem-solving, innovators of tomorrow’s future. Similar to the DYN program I highlighted in my previous blog post, I plan for students to have an authentic experience with technology by making decisions and personally interacting in the digital world, making it necessary for students to evaluate and draw meaningful conclusions. In accordance with the standard of focus, and other state standards, students will be asked to interpret events in history and form opinions surrounding a central, thematic question, promoting critical thinking skills. While developing as critical thinkers, students will have the opportunity to form collaborative groups to share and discuss individual ideas and how they may relate to the overall theme of the unit. Similar to the group that declared America’s Independence from Great Britain, students will work together to pen their own ‘Declaration’ of sorts. With the help of technology, students will be able to communicate their ideas and receive feedback and guidance from adult experts. They will use a variety of digital means to communicate the reasons behind the American Revolution to the world, simultaneously expressing a connection from past to present, and what implications that may have in the digital future. The lessons and activities will challenge students to take a creative approach, perhaps entertaining even the wildest of ideas, as John Larmer suggests. By allowing students to create digital content in the classroom, with guidelines, we promote ownership and empowerment in every individual student. Via the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, my integrated technology unit plan will involve engaging and empowering lessons and activities that promote critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity.



P21 Is There a Best Way to Develop the 4C’s in All Students?

The 4C’s and New Learners of the 21st Century

As trends in education pedagogy move away from standardized testing, educators are able to embrace an alternative framework, allowing for highly effective and engaging experiences inside and beyond the classroom. Part of this framework involves incorporating, what is commonly known in the education world as, ‘the 4 C’s: critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity’. Promoting and valuing these four ideas leads to students who are not only successful in assessments while functioning in the classroom, but also outside the classroom walls, in the real world. If we cannot provide our students with the tools to function independently, effectively, and as innovators outside of the classroom, are we really doing them any service, at all? I do not believe so, therefore; it is important to explicitly incorporate ‘the 4C’s’ into teaching pedagogy to develop our students for the jobs they will explore in the future.

In a video provided by the Tech Knight, I was able to get an inside look into how different institutions embrace the technology savvy 21st Century learners we are encountering in our classrooms. In conjunction with promoting ‘the 4C’s’ the highlighted institutions, educators, and students took on learning in a totally revolutionary, digital way. One such institution in Chicago is the Digital Youth Network (DYN); an after school program that has developed into a full-fledged in-school media arts program, even establishing a partnership with the Chicago Public Library. Although not necessarily explicitly targeting state or national standards for learning, DYN allows students the opportunity to get hands on experience with digital media, while developing and fine-tuning 4C skills. For example,

Working with DYN allows students the opportunity employ critical thinking in regards to their actions and the decisions they make, both among classmates and with their peers at home. Additionally, it seems much easier for students to think critically when they can conceptualize why decisions are important and how significant an impact they may have. When interacting with technology in a hands on, grassroots, authentic, real-world way, the students in the DYN program teach themselves when, how, and the importance of critical thinking.

The DYN program encourages collaboration amongst students at all levels, tasking them to tackle heavy issues that they are or will face in the real world. One of the students featured in the video explained her understanding of collaboration as “sometimes having to take the passenger seat and go along for the ride.” Through collaborating with their classmates, peers, teachers, community, and digital community, these students are talking to and hearing from people from all walks of life.

Another student in the video spoke on collaboration and summed up that, from his work in the DYN program, he possessed the skills to “fit in every pocket of society”… what a powerful and articulate statement for a high school student to conceptualize and verbalize.

DYN embraces and empowers students to explore the many avenues of communication in the 21st Century. As so many of the ways to communicate are digital, it can be said that perhaps, what it means to be literate now encompasses digital literacy. The DYN program offers opportunities to not only learn about digital communication, but also to learn by experiencing, hands on, how to effectively digitally communicate.

Of the 4C’s, I believe the DYN program focuses and embraces creativity to its fullest. To promote the flow of ideas and spark inspiration, spaces for students are created in typical classroom settings, but more so as ‘non-traditional’, spaces similar to what might be seen in the real world. For example, upperclassmen in the DYN program have the ability to create content for, plan, and then present material they have learned to a class of middle school students. As we know, creativity is one of the most important aspects of teaching, so to see a high school student able to create content and present to an audience speaks volumes about the opportunity to express creativity the DYN program gives students on a daily basis.

An expert in the video asserts that, “every kid has an interest.” I believe that the DYN program in Chicago allows students to discover and develop an interest that will put them at the forefront of 21st Century learning. While fostering a lifelong passion for digital media, students are able to seamlessly use critical thinking skills, collaboration, communication, and creativity to ultimately thrive as citizens of the real world.



PBS Digital Media* New Learners of the 21st Century

 Digital Youth Network

First Blog Post + Kudos to Philly Teacher

Although slightly behind schedule (and by schedule, I mean the Tech Knight’s guidelines for blog posting during the summer graduate-student edition of “Computers in the Classroom”), I am elated and proud to have constructed and successfully posted my first entry on my first ever blog!

For those of you not playing along, I am what we call technology un-savvy. Before I started the class if you had asked me if I ever imagined I’d be posting to a blog weekly (again, that schedule is…. a guideline…) the answer would be: HECK NO! However, under the guidance of the Tech Knight (my highly qualified, tech guru professor) I am now up and running as a ‘blogger’. Wohoo!

Now, down to business: I was asked by the Tech Knight to comb through some fantastic education blogs and choose one to follow throughout the semester. In my search I was drawn to Philly Teacher because, I love Philly (hello, cheesesteaks!). As I read through first the ‘About Me’ section, then through the blog posts, I felt as if I had found my education soul-mate mentor. As a young, professional, future teacher I found the blog post topics relevant and informative. The style of writing flows, is conversational, and presents an opinion without coming off as harsh or brash- all things I hope to develop as my blogging progresses. I was (and am) wary of cyberspace, putting it all out there, and finding a balance between personal and professional- Philly Teacher showed me that it is possible and gives an example of a fully functioning PLN (Personal Learning Network, for those of you- myself included- still struggling to remember all the acronyms in the education world). As a blogging skeptic, I am relieved and excited to have found someone I can relate to, look up to, learn from, and be inspired by. Thanks, Mary Beth! looking forward to following you!


And hey, if there’s anyone out there similarly inclined or inspired, let me know! I’ve only just begun this whole PLN thing- I’ll take any advice, encouragement, or feedback I can get.



Philly Teacher