Bringing Digital Media into the Classroom
Where to start? Start with a topic that interests you. The last thing you want to do is end up spending 45 minutes surfing the Internet and then end up feeling that you just wasted precious time. So start with a topic that you find exciting or find completely silly. See what folks are saying about it and really read what they are saying. It’s easy to get into a click-a-thon with all those hyperlinks out there and end up not reading much of any one thing. In fact, I am convinced that my students don’t read the entire assignment when it is posted online. They tend to skim it and miss entire paragraphs and then ask when is it due? (This happens with all assignments, but it tends to drive me nuts since there are three places online with a bolded and italicized due date and they still miss it.) Try to spend time actually reading one thing and then use one or two links to see where it takes you. It is easy to let reading become a frenetic activity that takes you away from your original source you’re your original interest. And if reading online hurts your eyes like it does for me, then print out an article here and there.
I tend to ask myself, “How do I keep up?” most days. What I do, and it would be great to hear what other folks do, is take some time out of my day to be curious. This curiosity can lead me on some crazy tangents or I can force myself to stay focused on one single issue. If I find an article or site that I want to check out when I have more time, I copy the url to a sticky or use Evernote to save it or see if they have an RSS feed if I feel like the site or author are interesting enough that I want consistently check them out.
And the amount of time I devote (without guilt) depends on my day. If I have five minutes, then I devote five minutes—which can end up being 30 so I have to watch myself. But, I try to do this when I have some free time and am interested in seeing what the latest buzz is about. I also have a handful of folks that I check-in on to see what they are up to: danah boyd,
Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito, the MacArtur Foundation YouTube channel, S. Craig Watkins and many more. Try to find folks that talk about issues you find important and then bookmark their sites and see what they are up to every now and then. Twitter is a great way to accomplish this in a somewhat easy manner—although there seems to be a love-it/hate-it response to Twitter. (I will blog about this in a future post.)
The important thing to remember is that we can’t know everything about the world of new media. This forces us teachers who have been trained to have the mindset that we need to “know” or be the expert in a topic before we can bring something into the classroom to shift our thinking. If you have students, parents, or colleagues who are already interested in a new media topic, ask them. Chances are that they would be really excited to share with you their interest and also give you some good resources—and if you are pressed for time, then tell them you only want one resource that they think is great and you can start there. Don’t put pressure on yourself to become an expert or to know everything about a topic—this mindset doesn’t fit with the new media characteristic of collective intelligence: draw from the knowledge of a group in order to pool knowledge and compare notes on a common topic/goal.
For me, I think the most important thing is to stay excited about new media. It’s really easy for me to feel overloaded and exhausted. It takes me more than two hours every Monday to get through my email. That is exhausting and the last thing I want to do is drain my curiosity for new media. I want the time I spend being curious to be rejuvenating—most times it is and once in a while I just get fed up and need to walk away from the computer. Taking on a mindset of curiosity is a great way to enter the world of new media. And remember that becoming an expert in something takes time. Give yourself that time. How you do maintain your curiosity for new media? Who are folks you follow online and what about them or their topics interest you?