Every educator, from kindergarten to graduate school, should contribute to the important and significant work of teaching students to use online sources and social networks for educational and professional goals. To ignore the technology, or assume that our students already know it because they use it every day, is to participate in educational malpractice.
I teach Freshman Composition and Freshman Literature at an urban open-entry state institution. My students’ primary use of the internet is on smartphones and tablets. Few of them have internet at home, and most of them cannot afford a computer.
In order to assist my students in transitioning their use of the internet from primarily social and entertainment use to academic use, I have made it a priority in my classes for at least five years now. Most students are relieved when I inform them that they’re not only allowed to use their devices in my classroom, but they are encouraged to use them. (This requires a clear policy for use included in the syllabus.)
I have found that the best way to lasso the educational potential of the internet is to teach my students how to use it in practical ways on a daily basis. I like to start the semester with a short lecture about study tools they can use in all their classes (Quizlet, Studyblue, Evernote, Google Docs), and then slowly build up their knowledge by adapting a THATCamp activity called a “Dork Short” (a 2-minute mini-lecture) about a single specific tool that I or one of my extra-credit seeking students offer at the start of class each day. Not only does this activity increase their knowledge about what is out there, but it also builds a need in my students to learn about digital curation. They want to know how to store this information because it’s valuable to them. I have found that building a hunger in my students for a specific digital skill increases their attention span, retention, and use of the internet for educational purposes (i.e. “Do you want to keep that great website you just heard about? Great! Here’s a free tool called Evernote. You want to start to build a digital library of sources so you can use them in your papers? Wonderful! Let’s learn about Zotero!”)