If you spend any time with youth, you know how much of an impact technology has had on their lives. Young people today have grown up with interactive technology. At young ages, my kids started playing Webkinz and Club Penguin, virtual gaming worlds that have safeguards built in to protect children. They moved on to Animal Crossing, Minecraft, and sports games, like FIFA and Madden. These worlds let them meet and interact with other people from all over the world. They learned about managing money, contributing to society, and collaborating with others to succeed in a task.
In her 2010 TEDtalk, Jane McGonigal said, “we need to make the real world more like a game.” For teachers, and teacher librarians, we must learn to use technology to reach youth today. We must transform learning experiences so they can be as exciting, vibrant, and engaging as the interactive worlds children submerse themselves in almost daily. If you want to convince a child to study their multiplication math facts, don’t hand them a set of flashcards. Give them an app. Learning about the Underground Railroad? Reading about it can be interesting, and there are some okay videos…but set them loose on the Pathways to Freedom website, and they can view primary source materials while immersing themselves in an online, interactive learning experience that will make the things they are studying come to life.
One of the major collaborative efforts that should exist between teachers and the media specialist in a school is the sharing of resource information. Teachers are not able to go out and discover every book, video, or website that can transform what they are teaching, so I see it as the responsibility of the school media specialist to search, experiment, and make recommendations. We can also use these available resources to build our relationships with students, moving us out of the realm of irrelevant adults, into someone who can understand them and reach them where they are. If there is a chasm between you and the child you are trying to teach, you will not be the most effective teacher for that student. If you don’t know the literature they are reading, the games they are playing, the social apps they are using, or latest fad to catch their attention, you are irrelevant in their world. You can build a bridge to that child though. Through understanding. You will have to make Rainbow Loom bracelets, fight Creepers in Minecraft, know what it means to like a photo on Instagram, and laugh out loud at Captain Underpants.