“How can we do research if we don’t have a computer?”

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Image by author

Every so often a child says something that reminds again that their lived reality is so different from my own.

I had set up the children in my class with a small provocation to ponder during the week, that transportation needs engines to move. The kids and I tottered off to the library with the burning question.

As the children went about replenishing our classroom library with old favourites like Geronimo Stilton, one of the kids came up to me looking confused.

“Ms Stephanie how can we do research in the library? We don’t have our computers.”

It was then that reality whacked me in the face.

The kids in front of me have never known an era where their parents haven’t possessed a device that can give them answers to questions. To look for information in books was so out of this nine year old’s experience that the student wasn’t able to connect library equals books equals information.

I’m sure that many teachers would see this as a further evidence that technology is destroying the fabric of education as a whole, that a child would not think of the books in the school library as a place to find facts.

Yet what is this child’s experience?

Like many adults these days if I’m stumped about something, I will often whip out my phone for the answer.

This is what she knows.

Yes we still read books but when I think of my own choices for reading these days, most of them are a result of recommendations on twitter rather than browsing the library or bookstore. No longer do I need to head down to the encyclopaedia aisle to find the knowledge I’m looking for and fun facts along the way.

My book choices find me.

This is our student’s reality.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t use a teachable moment to give nine year olds in 2014 the experience of a nine year old of curling up in the encyclopaedia section in 1989 to learn more about the world.

Several kids in my class had managed to locate books on cars. Others were looking on the library’s date base. Most were milling around. So I we went down to the non-fiction section. I explained that the children who had found cars were on the right track, but if they had looked in the previous section there were a whole lot of books on forces and motion.

Are these the sort of books that might help us?

The covers were enticing and were giving the children messages that they were on the right rack.

Within seconds the kids were busy pulling out books and sharing with others. They glanced and pictures first and then started finding words. I quickly did a series of mini lessons explaining table of contents and that you didn’t need to read reference books cover to cover to find information. Look for chapters that you think might help you first is part of the beauty of these types of books.

The kids were quickly ensconced in new found facts, both intended and unintended.

“Hey Miss Stephanie this book has websites we can go visit.”

Awesome make sure you bring it back to class with you.

It’s time to stop viewing technology in opposition to the strengths of books and paper. All have their place in learning and by bringing the strengths of the digital world with the world of books oh what places our children will go.

And those teachable moments?

They exist to remind the adults in education the importance of humour and humility in helping educate children.

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