When everybody around me complemented me on my ideas about technology and games in the classroom I thought they were exaggerating. Which kid wouldn’t just love to be able to use their cellphone in class? Wouldn’t they prefer to get email reminders over forgetting their homework? Not to mention – online exercises, where you can immediately know if you got it right or not. And these are the simple ones.
To my great disappointment the 7th and 8th graders I am teaching, at least most of them, do not embrace technology at all. In fact, the whole “extra via technology” is perceived as a burden rather than a luxury.
These kids are heavy users of Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instagram and Youtube. Ask them to check their emails, yes, this tiny little envelope at the corner of their smartphone and they look at you as if you’re talking gibberish.
I found it amusing that they thought email was simply outdated. The old people’s way of communications. They refused to understand why I do not want to Whatsapp with them (one dad recently told the teachers at school that his daughter received 500 messages in 2 hours her phone was taken from her, most of them were variation on “ha ha”…).
So, there goes my super enthusiastic plan to award my students with a package of some new learning tools.
But that’s not all: I was looking for a platform to create a class wiki. A private online space where I can give assignments and the students can submit and also ask for help and get it. I got stuck at the passwords stage. Every week I needed to reset several passwords. In the cases where the students registered themselves and I couldn’t reset, I had to create new accounts… It was a mess.
I have to admit, both platform I tried – PBWORKS
and WIKISPACES were problematic for other reasons too. PBWORKS page design is horrid. The navigation is troubling. The text editing is annoying (you have to use “save”). PBWORKS offers a great feature that shows when your students visited your wiki. I was happy about it until I realized it didn’t register the visits correctly. A students who only visited once at the very beginning showed up as logged in yesterday, while the one who logged in yesterday, or even now in class, didn’t register at all. Wikispaces doesn’t offer this feature at all.
Wikispaces is nicer to look at. Less messy. I love that you can create project spaces for your students. However, it doesn’t support Hebrew well enough (right to left texts). And since I always have to translate my posts – it didn’t look good to write an RTL text when it is aligned to the left. Lines got mixed and texts misunderstood.
The students were reluctant to use the new tool. Some “got it”, like this student who missed class and asked if the lesson summary will be on the wiki later. But they were few. Realizing this is a one-way tool, I switched to “WIX” and created a classroom website with a blog, in which I post my announcements and tools. Wix is currently the fastest and simplest platform for creating your website. It has plenty of really nice designs. I don’t like that you have to log in the website editor and from there to the blog, such a long and tedious way. If I notice a typo I can’t click “edit” like in wordpress and jump right into the blog post. The comments feature is also not the best. But, it still was the fastest to produce and simplest to maintain.
Still, going back to the headline: I teach in Herzliya, which holds perhaps the highest concentration of high tech companies in Israel. I would have thought tech in school would bring at least some interest if not satisfaction. I was surprised to discover how uneasy the kids are with learning a new technological tool (email, web browsing). But even more surprised to realize parents think it is more important to spare their kids the new task then to award them with new learning tools.
I can’t help wondering where is our little “startup nation” headed. Entrepreneurship flourished here when people had to cope with going out of their comfort zone. Keep the box padded, and no one will think out of it.