As I sit in the National Writing Project listening to teachers discuss how to implement technology, it occurs to me just how important it is for teachers to reach out to kids through cyberspace.
I think I’m a prime example of what writing and teaching in the digital age has become. My teaching evolves around using Wikis, blogs, Blackboard, and Nings. As an author, I’m currently writing a multi-genre YA novel (a sequel to Dregs) using blogs, chat rooms, IMs, and text messages. It isn’t centered on just that, but it’s about teens, so it wouldn’t be an authentic representation of them if it didn’t incorporate that on some level. To reach my intended audience, I have to enter their world, and a huge part of their world exists in cyber space. We can’t use age-old strategies for teenagers now, because they’ll feel we can’t relate to them. As an author, I want them to read my work, and say, “Man, she gets it…” As a teacher, I want them to listen to what I’m saying, especially since I’m teaching future teachers how to teach. That listening needs to morph into believing, and the only way to truly convince young people I understand their world is to be part of it. As teachers and authors, we’re role models, and we can exist in those virtual worlds just as we do in the real one. (It begs the issue that teaching via virtual reality also allows the less-interactive kids to interact more openly, where limitations can be breached. Shy kids step out of their box, because they can assume an avatar/persona that gives them anonymity.)
When education embraces the world students/teens spend their evening hours immersed in, we might meet on a middle, common ground that allows learning to abound. And my guess is, kids won’t be the only ones learning.