When the power is off, talking is still okay

Categories: Reading

I just finished rereading a few articles in the March 2013 edition of Educational Leadership. The entire edition focuses on technology and learning. Many of the articles were about how various teachers had infused digital learning into their classrooms. They describe students’ enthusiasm for learning as they interact with one another through technology-everything from class websites full of assignments that students download on their own, to 3-D models of bridges to help students understand the concepts of weight and structure.

These are all excellent ways to learn. They meet many of the requirements of the Common Core State Standards, which give us a portrait of a student who can use technology in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. Technology is growing and changing almost daily, and our students need to be able to access and use it effectively.

However, the Standards also call for students who are proficient at speaking and listening, something that teachers tell me is lacking in some students today.

I am reminded of something a teacher said to me during a recent Making Meaning workshop I was conducting. We had just viewed some classroom footage of 6th-grade students during a lesson on inferring. When asked to comment on what resonated with them, this teacher said, I’m struck by the simplicity of the lesson. I asked her to say more. She elaborated, There was no Smart Board, no iPad, no computer. The only ‘equipment’ the teacher used was chart paper and markers. She said that what she saw were students who were engaged, talking with one another about the topic at hand, and interested in what one another were saying. She noted that it was evident in their behavior that they knew how to have a conversation.

This comment has stayed with me. When I talk with schools and districts about our work at DSC, I am so proud to say that we intentionally develop not only traditional academic learning, but also the social and emotional needs of children. We do this through the explicit structures we build into our work around meaningful talk, whether it is in reading, writing, vocabulary, or phonics, and whether in-school or after-school. David Pearson, in an interview with DSC, said that if we as educators don’t develop children’s abilities to talk with one another and express themselves in meaningful ways, our chances for a civil society are bleak. I would agree with Dr. Pearson; technology is a wonderful way to teach and learn, but let’s not forget about the simple act of talking. After all, once the technology is turned off, there has to be something more.