George Lucas Educational Foundation
Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

Kids Are Still Kids: Staying Connected to Students Without Technology

May 15, 2006

Recently, I was doing a residency in a New England middle school that has one-to-one computing in grades seven and eight. I was going to spend the day in seventh-grade classes modeling teaching strategies in a one-to-one setting and providing some of what I call professional development for kids. I was setting up my projector and speakers in the room I was going to be based in when the announcements came on, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited, and all the students were called to a class meeting by the teacher.

Conducting a School X Ray

I was invited to join the circle of chairs, and, thinking it would be a good chance to get to know the lay of the land, I gladly joined their circle. In one of the games they played, Good Morning, students took turns leaving their chairs and moving in front of a classmate, extending a hand and saying, "Good morning," and then asking, "What's the news?" The person asked would share some news with the class before standing and repeating the process. The game continued until every member of the class had been greeted by name and listened to.

Along with the rest of the class, I waited out a few awkward pauses as some of the thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds struggled to find the right words while appearing to be studying the floor, listened to a lot of fairly silly pieces of news told with self-conscious smiles, and even witnessed a few kids eagerly seizing the stage to strut their verbal stuff. Throughout it all I was aware that these kids, though fortunate to be students in a one-to-one school and to have a wonderful homeroom teacher with a sense of humor and clear control of her classroom's culture as well as her curriculum, were still just kids.

And just tonight I heard children's-book author Beverly Cleary interviewed on the eve of her ninetieth birthday. Near the end of the interview, she was asked whether she thought kids would still be reading about her characters Beezus, Henry, and Ramona in fifty years. "Oh, yes," Cleary replied without hesitation. "You see," she went on, "I don't think children change all that much. It is the world that has changed and will change, not the children. They still want much the same things they wanted when I was young."

If Cleary were to be a teacher in a one-to-one classroom, I bet her class would start the day with a class meeting and every child would speak and would be heard. And then, well connected as a community, they would go about their business of school and have all sorts of learning adventures.

Do you connect with every child every day? And, no, I don't mean as in wireless connection -- I mean through eyes and words! I guess what I mean to say here is that if you are in a well-connected, well-wired classroom, you had better be well connected to your kids, too!

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