Friday, March 09, 2007

Deal with the Savages

I've been thinking a lot lately about the problems I have with my 8th graders, who are a somewhat unique group when it comes to technology. They've grown up with technology and they all really like to use it, which is par for the course. But when it comes to learning something new or using a new tool they are very resistant. If they haven't done it before they really do not want to do anything new. What this means is they love to listen to music and take pictures with the camera, but they don't like having to organize pictures into a video or write out a script. They also have no clue towards most technology vocabulary, even stuff I know they've been using since 6th grade in my class. There are a few kids that have web access of their own at home who are classic digital natives, but the rest are basically clueless about most web technologies, and they don't want to learn how to use it.
I guess its more a sub-culture thing because they can't interact (web wise) except at school. They tend to be more like people who were not born into technology. When I taught classes 10 years ago to other teachers on how to use Office or the Web they would act a lot like this. If they had never done it they would resist trying to learn it and need step by step help, but the second time we did something they would take to it really well with a minimum of help needed, even though it was a new task.
I've taken to following a three step procedure with my 8th graders whenever we try something new:
1st I show them a PowerPoint and explain how to use the program.
2nd We show them previously done examples and "play" with the program/tool.
3rd We give them a quickie assignment that is simple and easy to succeed with. This "quickie" will probably take two to three days while they become comfortable with the program. After doing those three things, then and only then, will they be ready to proceed with the task I really wanted for them to learn/perform. Of course it takes a lot of time to get them through these steps. But I have found I can't take any shortcuts with them without a huge amount of whining and giving up.
Do other people find they have to do this with people that are not 'comfortable' with learning the new technologies? I wonder what steps other trainers have found to succeed.

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