When I was a child I grew up next to the Arcade Library. I learned how to read at school and I’m blessed with enough intelligence and a sense of curiosity to wonder how things work. I spent hours each week at the library as a child learning how to read and gather more information and vicarious experiences from the authors I read. I even learned skills out of books, but most of the time I needed visual models. Before the World Wide Web was born I would curl up with encyclopedias at work and read them. I’m really fascinated with learning about the world we live in. The first generation of web sites were really great and I learned even more than I could from books. I now had access to world class resources. I didn’t have to use inter-library loan. I could dial-up with SLIP and using NCSA Mosaic and later Netscape I had access to libraries world wide. Nowadays, I’m indebted to the folks who invented Atom and RSS. That’s really helped me to read more.
The world of blogs, wikis and podcasting has opened up a virtual world into which I have traveled and explored. Most of the students who come to the school I work at learn to read here. Very few if any have those skills from home or home schooling. Students today have some marked differences than we did forty-five years ago. They come here with the expectation that information will be accessible. They are digital kids. Many have computers at home. Most of cable or satellite televisions and many have high speed internet. An increasing number have cell phones, IPods, and Playstations. Some of those devices have 802.11x WiFi and we’ve seen more of them on our network. These children come here with more technology in their pockets than teachers had ten years ago on their desktops.
It would behoove us to take advantage of this, but we don’t. In fact many of our staff are opposed to student access to cellular technology. Many of my colleagues want to ban student cell phones for a variety of reasons. I submit that we ought to engage those students on the devices that they carry in their pockets. Today in reading Digg.com RSS feed for Technology I came across an interesting talk with Eric Schmidt of Google. Google’s really doing a lot to open up the web and making access to technology more ubiquitous even for economically disadvantaged segments of our population.
Last week when I was in Philadelphia at St. Francis Inn I noticed that even economically disadvantaged folks have access to free WiFi and many have cell phones with SMS capability. Imagine if when you came to school your teacher removed your pen and pencil at the door and insisted you use a stylus and wax tablet. That’s really not an extreme analogy. Think about it.