Over my 5+ years as Tech Director at Verbum Dei, I’ve experienced a rather remarkable change in my regard towards our students’ learning capabilities. It’s been a revolution of sorts, and probably speaks more to my own misunderstandings than to the students themselves, but ultimately reflects positively towards our intrepid young men.
My background previous to Verbum Dei was in the private sector, so I had no previous experience in education and working with high school students. Any interactions with students early in my first year were tainted with a mindset driven by a belief that these guys were young and probably hadn’t benefitted from the exposure to technology compared to many other middle class communities. I believed in my own semi-tainted mind many of our boys had matriculated through school districts that were poorly funded and under-served. So when students approached me with technology questions or problems they were facing, I approached my solutions for them in learning contexts – assuming these were great “teaching” moments for them – as well as I. And this is how I handled those types of questions when they came to me for assistance.
My point for sharing this is most interesting –not that those types of questions have gone away over the years. I still get those questions. And it is also true that Verbum Dei students haven’t always benefitted from many of the economic teaching advantages you’ll find in most other communities. But what’s interesting about my interactions with our Verbum Dei students is that – when I look back at these teaching moments over the years – I really haven’t had as many as I anticipated. When I reflect on it, those basic questions rooted from inexperience or under-exposure are vastly in the minority. If I were to be completely honest, the most common requests I get from students are probably password resets to their computer and email accounts!! And even though those requests are somewhat annoying – yet easily correctable – problems, they are certainly not necessarily reflective of young peoples’ learning competencies (I dealt with password resets just as frequently in the private sector)! Generally though, those issues that provided basic teaching moments for students haven’t cropped up in huge numbers, and thus are not something reflective of a general lack of educational quality or opportunity.
Furthermore, what’s even more fascinating and revealing of our students’ technology acumen is the other type of questions/problems I am frequently tasked with. I categorize these as the “High-End Computer Questions with Which I Don’t Immediately Have an Answer To!!” Yes, I get a bulk of tech questions that start from a very high level of understanding from the start. The Tech Director being challenged by his students for computer solutions is a real thing at Verbum Dei. Here’s a recent example: I had a student asked my about formatting text and pictures in a Microsoft Word brochure he was creating for an assignment. The formatting question was sensible, but the perfect solution had proven elusive. I asked the student if perhaps doing the brochure in PowerPoint might offer a better variety of formatting, and he began to show me – because he clearly was well-versed with the options and had worked through the issues earlier – that Microsoft Word possessed more dynamic and full-featured brochure templates. I admittedly did not know any of this. He began to show me how both products compared to one another! The tables were turned, and I was the student now. Finding this as an exceptional learning moment for both of us, we worked together to find the formatting solution that was eluding us – and we did. And truth be known – this wasn’t the first time this has happened. I run across this constantly – students bringing a solid understanding of technology to the arena. And I love it.
The message here is I’ve learned a boat-load of tech stuff from our young men. Yes – they’ve taught me. They are extremely savvy in the ways and features of today’s technology and devices. They know the in-and-outs of social media and interactions with the vast realm of knowledge on the other end of our monitors. I’ve relied on them to show me how certain features work on Smartphones, tablets and Apps. They – themselves – are daring teachers; they’re that good. These young men are outfitted for success more than I ever believed when I first came to the school, and their abilities to adapt, retain and learn should encourage all of us. There’s no doubt in my mind — they’re equipped for tomorrow’s challenges.