by Becky Keene
Expert Educator Columnist, USA
Have you ever noticed that kids seem to have a better handle on trying something new than adults? I think anyone who’s watched a child learn can see that children can switch between pieces of information very quickly, and they can soak up new pieces of information like sponges.
I was at a school last week helping students get started with Office 365 accounts. Our goal was to have each of them login, create a new document in Word Online, and then see how to access it from any other device. As I got students going (by typing in a URL – yuck; then pinning it to their Start screens – hooray), there were a few students at a table who were, I thought, a little off task. As I walked around to help, one had music streaming and another had a game open. The third boy was drawing with his finger in an app. “Hey boys,” I started, “Let’s go ahead and minimize those so you can get logged in.” Frankly, I was a little surprised that they didn’t minimize as soon as they saw me coming, like most off task students I’ve seen. I should have used that clue to understand what happened: they were waiting on me. “I’m already there. See, Mrs. Keene?” a boy showed me, by split screening his app with Internet Explorer to show me his login page, ready and waiting. The others did the same, swiping in their login page that was ready to go. “We’re just waiting for the next direction.”
I have done this training with adults more times than I can count, and they almost never navigate away from the login page. Patiently they wait, not wanting to get away from the screen and forget how to get back. There’s something to be said for patience, and waiting for the next step, and maybe those students should do a better job at that. But I was impressed with the confidence in the students that they could follow directions and then make good use of their wait time, and they weren’t worried that they couldn’t jump right back into our login process when asked.
I’m wondering if this is because children are so accustomed to things being new. When children are first born, everything is new! In fact, they spend most of their childhoods figured out new skills, new words, and new processes. So showing students something new isn’t outside their normal. In fact, they’re pretty comfortable with new. At some point, we grow up and settle into patterns and comforts that aren’t so new. In fact, some of them are downright old. Giving students access to something new isn’t nearly as difficult as it can be for adults, and that’s something we should remember in education. Let’s not put our own emotions about trying new things onto the modern learner, who spends every day wallowing in new things. Instead, let’s move out our own comfort zones and give students permission to do what they do best.