Sunday morning I woke up to a baby penguin bouncing on my head. Since it was stuffed, I didn’t suffer much damage. And at least, that’s better than last Easter weekend, when I was woken by the words, “Mom, can I play with the iPad?” The four year old had a sly smile and snuck his flashing eyes at me sideways so I just couldn’t say no. All the four boys like digital devices. They are supposed to ask first before using them but that doesn’t mean we haven’t found one of our boys with the iPad stuffed up his shirt, or hiding in the bathroom with it. I live in a household with a Luddite and four digital natives. I am not the Luddite (I think that is important to note). Sometimes the Luddite will hide the iPad on top of the fridge where the 4 and 7 year old can’t reach it. The two older ones simply get banned: no iPod touch, no laptops, no iPads. But it never lasts. How can it? They are a digitally engaged generation.
Engagement is a key component of the Learning Designs project. Even though the dictionary defines being engaged as “busy or occupied,” for me, my children’s engagement transcends busyness. They are engrossed. The on-line dictionary defines engrossed as “rapt with wonder” or “wrapped in thought.” I spent the previous weekend creating this blog. When I came home from work last week my two oldest boys announced that they now had their own blogs as well. I think the whole week they dedicated their free time to writing their entries, designing their layouts and checking to see whom else was reading it. (Did you know the back end of blogger shows them pie charts and line graphs of who is reading their blog, what country their from and which platform they are using?) Now I will tell you the part that amazes me. I can’t tell you how many times in different ways since they were little I have tried to encourage them to write. They have never been interested. Now they are writing without any prompting from me. They are engaged for many reasons: personal decision to create a blog, topic of their own choosing, authentic work for an audience, etc. I am stunned. The oldest is writing about the fastest cars, 0-60 (http://fastest-cars-to-60.blogspot.com/). That’s his love. He wants to be a car designer when he grows up. He has written a second blog linked to the first. The other has written about The Top Ten Places (http://www.the-top-ten-places.blogspot.com/). It’s unfinished but I’m amazed at what he has produced on his own initiative. He’s added a poll so people can vote with their preference. I guess when I think about moving schools forward on the 21st century landscape, I want my children to have the opportunity to do this kind of creating at school and not just at home.
As the pilot unfolds, we will be looking at the notion of engagement and what that means for 21st century learners. Student engagement is a broader notion than simple engagement; the definition is complex and multidimensional. Amy Newman, our district Assessment Helping Teacher, has already done some significant research on this topic. She has summarized the research and presented it in an easy to read two-page brief. If you haven’t read the district’s Research Current you may want to do so. Here is a link to it: http://www.sd36.bc.ca/general/research-eval/researchCurrents/Student-Engagement-Vol2-1.pdf The notion of engagement, and what it means for student achievement, will inform our work as we move forward. There is much promise in the work ahead.