Un-Plug and Make a Connection

With all this talk of technology in the classroom, “there is an app for that”, and bridging the gap between learning and technology I find myself thinking about connections in the classroom. No, not a connection to the world wide web, but person to person connection. Rather, the teacher to student connection.
This thought came to me during my student teaching this week. Our lesson was centered on using video clips to drive the unit objective home to students in the most explicit way. And though I say some made connections from the movie clip to context to their own notes, mostly they were just thrilled to be able to watch a movie (I say movie because five clips ranging from 5-10 minutes is a movie in my book).
However, before the lesson began, I was able to check in with some students and I had startling conversation with one in particular. Now, I am not going to divulge a student’s thoughts and worries on the web, but I will share a phrase that left an impact: “I don’t give a hoot (student used their own choice word here) about what we are learning, why does it matter?”
And though we worked through why it did matter, my teacher speech was interrupted with another thought by this student: “why do you even care about what I learn, you don’t know my history, I am a BAD student”.
By “bad student” the student meant more than just test scores. Needless to say I had my own moment with this student, telling them in fact that I do care, and I do not care about their past and in fact I am here on their time and not being paid for it because like them, I too am a student. Was my response honest? Yes. Did the student look shocked that a person who has only known them for a matter of weeks cares about what they learn how they feel and much more? Sadly, yes. And though this conversation brought to life some real participation in class all the while using technology to boot I could not help feeling we are missing the point here.
The point, that could easily turn into a rant about championing students, specifically those attending school in a low income area etc. (And, that is an important topic that all teachers need to keep in their mind). But, the point is that we are becoming so wrapped up in using technology to connect students to learning that we might overlook the most significant connection of all: connecting to the students.

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3 thoughts on “Un-Plug and Make a Connection

  1. I really appreciate you sharing this story and sentiment. I love how you turned a potentially uncomfortable situation into one of honesty and a chance to make a real connection with a student. It would have been easy for you to just walk away or chastise the student for being disrespectful/disruptive, instead you took the opportunity to reach out.
    Personal connections are something I find myself thinking more and more about. Everywhere we go, people are disconnected from their physical surroundings and the individuals around them. It makes me sad when I go out to a restaurant and see a family eating together, but everyone is just absorbed in their phones. Think of all the missed connections!
    I wonder how this will change in the coming years? It seems like there is a growing number of people frustrated by this sense of being alone in a crowd.

  2. I completely understand what you are saying. In my family, when we sit at the table to eat, there are no electronics allowed. It is a time for us to work on our verbal skills (and manners!). In this day and age, technology might be the only connection that we can make with our students. I feel that as teachers to be, we have the interpersonal thing going for us already. I personally see using and understanding technology as an important tool to make some of those connections with students. The ones that are so incredibly closed off that there is only one teeny tiny way to get in and that is through their love of video games and other such technology. I think that we must embrace the cold grip of technology or miss connecting to those students.

  3. Very cool that you made this honest and so clear connection to this student. I can so see you connecting this way, with honest care and sincerity.

    I don’t think that you’re saying that other teachers haven’t been able to make those kinds of connections and haven’t convinced him/her that they care because too much technology had gotten in the way of their relationships?

    What if this child is capable of doing things like brilliant movie making, or choosing just the right image to share with a partner school across the world, or could create really detailed podcasts, even while struggling with the paper assignments they’re given? Could a connection be made there that wouldn’t otherwise be made?

    You raise such excellent questions (and YES to achall. But the phones away over dinner!!!). We wrote into the grant for the iPads that we wanted to explore whether these devices would enable kids to show what they know and can do in more (and to them, perhaps more interesting) ways than are available to them in strictly paper and pencil classrooms. We hypothesized that students might become more known if they have other (and to them, perhaps more “real”) ways of showing what they can do know in different ways. I’m so interested in that question. I’m hoping you’ll keep pushing our thinking on this.

    Yes yes yes. It’s all about connection, even though in low-income schools, tech is too often all about remediation skill and drill programs that they do all alone…

    I’d love to hear more about this blossoming relationship.

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