My Digital Teaching Philosophy

I cannot imagine an effective English classroom that doesn't meaningfully address the use of digital tools and spaces. It just seems irresponsible.

The internet has incubated an entirely new culture of communication, but this is nothing different than the changes that came with other new communication technologies throughout history. Humans have had to adjust to the invention of the written word, the epistolary, the printing press, and now nigh-instantaneous online talk. Older technology is no better or worse than the new, and staying stuck on print media in the classroom is a thankfully fading stubbornness.

However, I have still known several teachers over the years who react with disgust and trepidation towards digital technology, resisting the cultural adjustment that is already present in the minds of their students. It is impossible to stop human cultures from shifting over time, and refusing to recognize digital culture is on par with any other gap in understanding of students' identities. I can personally testify to this cultural shift: I was born in 2002, and the idea of not being able to message my friends or look up information on a passing whim is alien to me. It's absurd to address our students as if the digital world is not their primary world!

Because digital tools, websites, and social media fall in and out of fashion so quickly nowadays, I see a much greater need to teach English with an emphasis on problem-solving. The age-old question of "How do I communicate what I really mean?" is being reset in a completely new social media context every few years (or less!), so we teachers can't get stuck on the same ideas for very long. I want to involve my students from the very beginning in helping me keep up with what's relevant to them. I can imagine putting a question on my get-to-know-you survey asking what social media they use, in order to fine-tune my lesson plans.

Another reason why I want to recast digital literacy in the light of problem-solving is that the online world is unstandardized. You pick up a book, newspaper, magazine, whatever, and there is a basic framework or information that you can memorize and use to decode what you're looking at. Online, designs can vary wildly, and so every website has its own slightly differnt key to its code. What will students do when they encounter an essential website, like a job listing or voting registration or tax claim, and they just don't know how to start decoding it?

But again, this need for problem-solving requires specific problems to attempt to solve. Assessing relevancy needs to stem from the students themselves. When do they have trouble reading, writing, or speaking online? What digital tools and spaces do they want to use, but struggle with? Bringing these ideas to the forefront is good practice, regardless of medium, because it helps students take ownership of their own learning. And for individuals online—who usually have no editor, publisher, or otherwise—ownership of and responsibility for your words is ultimate. If students misread or mispeak, the effects of their actions are far more permanent than ever before, which is why teachers need to make an effort to guide kids through digital spaces.

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