Yesterday in the District of Columbia (my school) and Virginia (my home), we had an earthquake, the largest quake in our area in 70 years. At school things rumbled and doors slammed, so most of the adults, who were preparing for the start of the school year, headed outside for a bit. At my house I returned to find pictures askew. A few things fell on the floor at home, but my neighbor checked on the house and picked them up before I arrived.
But here’s an interesting observation. On a day in August, when teachers like me are getting ready for the start of school — and bemoaning the end of summer just a bit — I found myself wishing the students were already back in school, because I know how special “the day after” can be for young learners and for me, too.
You see if school had already started children would arrive all excited about the earthquake, already engaged with the information. Many of these digital kids would have spent (and probably are spending) the evening surfing around the web, reading, consuming, comparing, collecting — and learning. Students as young as third grade would have arrived at school armed with stories, links, resources, facts, questions, and so much more. And once at school, they would be collaborating — sharing, posing questions, evaluating sources, racing to find answers — just the way we want our children to learn.
When the school year begins, I arrive a bit early each morning to open a computer classroom for about 20 minutes. Again and again, after each event, whether person-made or naturally occurring, I watch my students find, organize, consume, and absorb information with the most extraordinary effectiveness and enthusiasm (that’s my enthusiasm and theirs).
I’m not saying that I want more earthquakes or tsunamis or hurricanes or even political scandals, but I do want everyone — parents and educators — to notice how these events unleash enormous learning energy, bringing out digital skills and focus in young learners.
Have I mentioned how much I love teaching and technology? I can’t wait for the kids to get back.