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Inspiration

Nearly every Sunday morning I try to read the Sunday paper to help me get charged up for the week and relax for a few quiet moments before starting my day. This past Sunday I was drawn to the Parade section because the feature article was "Born to be Wired" (You can view the article at: http://www.parade.com/health/2011/10/generation-wired.html). As a high school teacher, I am drawn to articles that discuss the behaviors of our today's youth. As I read these articles I compare what they claim with my observations.

One question the article did ask was "Should Teachers Use Twitter in the Classroom?" The discussion that followed included statistics gathered in a survey concerning how teachers felt regarding the job their districts were doing educating students about online safety, security, and ethics. I had incorporated these topics into my curriculum five years ago. Finally at the conclusion of the section, they quote the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She says, "If you can use Twitter to maximize the likelihood that these kids will be proficient in a subject matter, why not?" Honestly, I am not convinced that many of my students are actually using Twitter. I do know that most of them use Facebook.

Another point this article covers is that researchers are suggesting that due to "nonstop connectivity" that it maybe "rewiring their brains." One researcher has suggested that due to this constant connectivity, students have "a diminished ability to focus on one thing for long." After I read that, I reflected back to when I was a college student learning to program. I had to preserve at writing programs to be successful. For the most part, I do not see that trait in many of my computer science students.

After I finished reading the article, I reflected on the question, "How can I use this information to improve my computer science classes?" If students only have a ten minute attention span, do I need to offer more activities? Should I add Twitter or Facebook to the online tools I am currently using?

I will continue to ponder more about these questions as well as consult with other computer science teachers when I attend the next local CSTA meeting.

What are your thoughts?

How are you addressing the shorter attention span?

How are you using social media in your classrooms?

Myra Deister
CSTA At-Large Representative

Comments

Thank you for this post! You've addressed exactly the issues that concern me about today's learners - particularly attention span! And the resulting lower levels of concept retention and perseverance that you mentioned. When you think about it, if we want our students to have the focus required for *any* college-level work - not just programming - we should demand that they train themselves to focus. It's true that this is difficult to do when the rest of the world allows their minds to wander.

I've recently started a new job as, essentially, a CS teacher and network admin support, in a K-8 California school, and I feel a bit overwhelmed. Although I am interested in both of those fields, I don't have formal training in them. I'm part of a hybrid learning pilot, so the standards for my position aren't quite set. I definitely want to instruct students in online safety and security, but it may initially take a backseat to fundamentals like the parts of a computer and proper typing!

I have thought about using social media as a learning tool; if only it were easily regulated or designed for educational audiences. Sharing is certainly a huge asset for learning, but I hesitate on Facebook, and the Twitter character limit bothers me. There must be social tools out there tailored for classroom use.

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