Our students are growing up in a rapidly changing digital society. The technology my elementary school students are using today will be nonexistent or look completely different by the time they reach college. It's important that I empower them to figure out how to use digital learning tools instead of teaching them to use digital learning tools.
Librarians and Media Specialists have always empowered students to search for books and information. Now as a Media and Educational Technology Instructor, I empower my students to take ownership of their digital learning by searching for clues within the digital learning tool. Sometimes this is a research database, a Web2.0 tool, an App, a software application, or an online book catalog. I always get a giggle from my students when I say, "Unless you plan on inviting me over for dinner when you are an adult to get me to teach you how to use the new App you downloaded, we better figure out how to look for clues in the App that will make it do what you want it to do."
Just as it is important that students learn to "Close Read" a text, it is also important that students learn to "Close Read" technology. Before I begin to use technology with my students, we spend time "Close Reading" it. We search for icons/buttons and words within the technology and discuss what we can infer from them. For example, we can look at a button with a T on and infer that it means "text" or "type." Why does the "share" button have an arrow pointing out of a box? When you finish creating, how do you tell the tool to save your work? Save? Done? Next? Why is a magnifying glass an inference to "searching?"
These are very basic skills, but at the elementary school level, these foundational skills are essential to personalized learning. My students are learning to control the technology they are using and to make the technology work the way they want it to in order to reach their goal of learning, collaborating, or creating a product.
As they research and create, I find that many times my students want me show them what button to select. If I simply point to the button, I am enabling and not empowering. My catch phrase has become, "Let's be a good detective and figure that out." Sometimes they need me close by while they do their detective work, but most of the time they remember what I have taught them about being good digital detectives and solve the mystery themselves. These are my proudest moments.