Do you know what the pupils in your class can do, and are doing, as far as using technology is concerned? It’s not enough to say “Oh, they’re all digital natives” (which isn’t necessarily true anyway). Spending some time finding out what they can do is time well-spent.
On one occasion, I was working with an English teacher in a Year 8 class (around 13 years old) in a school I visited regularly. The school had successfully bid for funding to pay for laptops and training for the English and Geography departments. Anyway, a Geography teacher happened to be passing the classroom, and saw me in there. He came in and asked if I could help him set up a website for the Geography department when I had some time. “Certainly”, I replied. But you could also ask Emily over there. Let me introduce you.
Emily was a 13 year-old girl who in her spare time had set up her own website with her own domain name, as part of a hobby she was pursuing. (It’s worth pointing out that this was in 1998, a time when not many adults or organisations had websites, and before it was really easy to create one. There was Microsoft Front Page, which cost money, but for the most part people used free HTML software for their web pages. An especially popular one was Arachnophilia.) I asked Emily if she’d be happy to help the teacher, and she was delighted to.
How did I know Emily had those skills? Because while I was working with the pupils I spent a moment or two asking them what they did with technology outside of school.
What were the benefits of putting Emily and the teacher in touch with each other in this way?
For Emily, it was an acknowledgement of her skills. For the teacher, it meant that he could get started more quickly -- and be able to ask for help and clarification more immediately -- than if he had to make appointments with me.
And for me, it meant I was seen as someone who had useful information.
In other words, a win-win-win situation.