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edu180atl: jay watts 5.18.12

Today was the last day of class for my Economics students, and because my course is a non-exam course, we had few preparations to make for “Exam Week” that is just around the corner.  Class started at 10:55 AM, and I knew that Facebook’s initial offering was scheduled to go public around 11:00 AM.  I put up a live feed from the NASDAQ on the SMART Board to allow the students to witness the first trade of what some are calling the stock of the future.  While we waited for trading to begin, I spoke about my brief history with online technology.  Having graduated from college in 1994, I began my teaching career having neither accessed information from the web nor received an email.  In 18 years, I have seen online companies like AOL and Netscape come and go.  Each was promised to be the “future”, only to rapidly become a thing of the past.  Once I completed my 15 minute talk, I allowed the students to have downtime watching the SMART Board or decompressing on their own laptops.

As I walked around the room, I was overwhelmed with the tools and resources the students are using voluntarily on an everyday basis.  After standing in front of the room speaking as an “expert” about Facebook and its business model, I watched the students gravitate toward sites like Tumblr and Google + or mobile apps like Instagram.  I listened as students explained to me how each was just a little different and allowed interaction with the world around them in a slightly different manner.  My question of “Why would you not just do all of this on one site?” was quickly scoffed by the crowd as the pros and cons of each web environment were given almost in unison from the class.

I remember a quote from a lesson years passed that said, “You can not learn when you are talking.  You can only learn when you are listening.”  The 15 minutes I spent at the end of class listening to the students freely share information with each other and with me made me feel like I was back in 1994 learning things for the first time.  In addition, hearing how the students wanted to interact with information and with others gave me a better understanding of their expectations for how they receive and filter information from the outside world.  Last but not least, as I reflect back on today, I have decided that I should probably stay away from Facebook stock.  Peter Lynch always says to invest in what you know, and I am long way from knowing about the next big thing in technology.

Jay Watts is an Economics teacher and the Assistant Athletic Director at the Westminster Schools.  He is a lacrosse enthusiast, an avid fan of the University of Alabama, and convinced that he is closely related to Larry the Cable Guy. 

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Stephen Kennedy #

    A reflective look at a certain gap between teacher and student, between one form of technology and the next, between present and past — but still, it’s all about The Learning, isn’t it? I like this — honest, aimed at how to reach the student, and a humble realization that as we age as educators, we know less and less. It is reassuring to think, however, that Facebook knows even less than that…

    May 18, 2012
  2. Great reflection, Jay. Several times in the last few weeks I’ve been thinking back to 1996 when I finished college, how I barely understood or cared about the notion of “email.” We’re about the same age, and while we may not feel “old,” the speed at which the world has advanced and our capacity to learn and integrate technology into our lives and our teaching practice is truly remarkable.

    I’m surprised that the kids are content to go back and forth between technologies because “each was just a little different.” I probably know most of the kids that were in that classroom, and I hear them grouse often about a particular app “just not being right.” I wonder if they’ve ever considered whether or not their ideas of what works and what doesn’t might be fodder for the next fully integrated piece of social media software. How can our school provide them “lab space” to make it so?

    If Mark Zuckerberg has taught us nothing else, it’s that the key to success is to find what already exists, to identify what people want or need, and to make it better. Iteration.

    May 21, 2012

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