In the beginning, I decided to go into teaching even though I had no idea if I would like it. I ended up teaching elementary school kids, and luckily, I loved it. However, after about 15 years or so, I started wondering whether this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life: I still liked it, but I wasn’t passionate anymore.
Then, about five or six years ago, I started working with other people on incorporating technology into teaching. Before, I had avoided technology like the plague; I didn’t really understand it and I was afraid to ask questions, and at the same time, I rationalized, justified and believed that computers were dehumanizing. However, when another teacher asked me, “Do you want to take your grade one class and work together with my grade eight class to create a website about our local community?” I agreed since the project fit into the curriculum, and it worked out really great. I liked the technology, but what I really loved was working with someone again: we’d come up with all sorts of great ideas and it was a lot of fun.
Then we did a project with the entire school, and it just really took off such that eventually, we were collaborating with schools from around the world. It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was all about the relationships that we formed during these collaborations.
There definitely are things to be concerned about when you’re using technology, but that’s not a reason to ban it; instead, that’s a reason to teach kids how to use it properly. A lot of times, school boards tend to ban those types of tools from kids, but you have to realize that they’re going to go home and use them anyway.
It’s like saying using the stove is dangerous; you just don’t hide the stove in the backroom and hope they don’t use it – you need to put that stove out where the kids can see it and teach them how to use it properly. I call it “Lord of the e-flies”: you have all these kids on e-fly island, and they’re playing with technology but there’s no one to guide them. There’s so much unbelievable potential with using these information and communication technologies. I mean, you can communicate with anyone, anywhere and showcase your work to a global audience. These kids are probably going to be getting jobs that don’t even exist yet, but what we do know is that they’re going to have to be able to use technology and collaborate with others, so we can’t just “play it safe”. As educators, we have to guide them on how to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly, and meaningfully.
Recently, I heard someone talking about how people in general are becoming emptier inside. They did a survey, where they asked people what the most important things in their life were, and everyone said their families, of course. Then, they asked how much time people spent with their families, and they found that on average, people were spending more time in the bathroom than they were with their kids. So we’re raising a whole generation of people who are a bit empty inside, and essentially, what we need to do is to create a sense of self. With the stuff that TIG is doing, it makes it so easy for kids to find something that they’re passionate about, to help other people all over the world, to make the world a better place, and as a huge unbelievably great side effect of that, they’re going to feel better about themselves.
We think that what TIG is doing for the youth in the world, that is, providing them with a forum to discuss and to come together to look at social action for social good, is just awesome. We would love to be able to encourage more people to use it.