Digismart students help you to help yourself!

Image credit: Elizabeth Ann Colette

I have been wondering for quite a while now: is it not the time for a tenth intelligence? After the familiar eight and latest ninth – cosmic smart – I think it’s high time for digismart.
Teachers often feel that they are overtaken by mediawise students. And this feeling is justified, as it is often a fact. The mediawise young pass us by and they are smart. Digismart.

Since I have been experimenting with social media in the classroom, my admiration for our digismart students has only increased. They embrace ICT and social media and  immediately start using new tools: without fear and with an open, enthusiastic, curious and investigatory mind. They easily pick up a tool and dare to learn by doing, experimenting and consulting each other and pass you by. Well, in my class that is exactly what I hope will happen. Classmates are each other’s – and my –  ‘digismart digimates’. They help me to help myself in our digital world.

By experimenting together with your students, they feel challenged (competence). By giving them the opportunity to discover and try out new things on their own, they grow more independent and feel more responsible (autonomy). And by trusting them and pointing out that you need their help and feedback, the relation between students and teacher strengthens (relatedness).

I show students the basics of a certain tool. Then it is their turn to experiment in order to discover more possibilities. By learning together, using the computer/tablet/smartphone, and by presenting their digital discoveries, digital learning spreads like oil. And it’s not only students who learn from each other, it is me too! This joint learning process makes us proud! Examples:

  1. A boy offers to look into the privacy settings of Padlet, as I am not able to answer his classmate’s question immediately. Later that day, he explains the settings to us all, so that we can safely start using this beautiful tool.
  2. After showing the possibility of online collaboration with Google Drive, three girls dive eagerly into it and give a how-to-presentation a few weeks later.
  3. One girl really got the purpose of social media and posts positive tweets and compliments to others, including the teacher. More children follow her example.
  4. I started blogging on my new site and tell my students why I like it. Then I show them Weebly, a site that I expect to be easy to use if they would like to start blogging too. I don’t have the time to find out all the workings of Weebly, but some boys immediately sign on and go to work and a week later they are able to tell us the ins and outs of the tool.
  5. After some students have experimented with Scratch under the guidance of a parent, I appoint them ‘Scratch ambassadors’: in no time they have half the class starting to learn the basics of programming.

Children know so much and are able to do so many things. I learn from them, every day. By observing them, having lots of conversations with them and by asking their feedback. Also by using social media. I see hidden ‘digitalents’: ‘slower’ children that are digitally quick. ‘Silent’ children who show themselves through Twitter, Padlet or blogging. A group of music smart children who form a band and present themselves through social media. School and home become interwoven. Learning continues. With classmates, with me: together, by using social media.

All this takes place in a safe (digital) learning environment. Before diving into this social media adventure, I focused on media education first. Because media skilled young are not by definition mediawise. On the contrary. So allow ample time to learn about and focus on positive behaviour online (THINK before you post), privacy on the internet and citation. And still: we discuss media wisdom every day.

Social media are part of my teaching and learning. By using them, we collaborate, share and communicate. We started using simple tools; Padlet, Popplet and Twitter are already blended in our learning. But I’d like to try more and there are plenty of tools to be discovered. The main challenge is to get through this media jungle, pick tools that you think could help you achieve your teaching goals and experiment with them. Together with your students. Make them your partners in experimenting and learning. Enhance their involvement. Give them responsibility and learn from them and with them. By having faith in the power to learn, of both yourself and your students, you are able to embark on a beautiful digital adventure: experiment, learn and enjoy!

The film Social media in de klas, made by my class (@Groep67MN), shows students engaged in using social media.

This blog is a translation of the previously published blog Digiknappe digimaatjes.

A version of this blog has also been published in a book on innovation in education, called ‘Education heroes: 60x proof it is possible’ Onderwijshelden: 60 x het bewijs dat het kan.