It happened during Morning Meeting. I can’t believe I did this.

Second graders were to greet each other in Arabic. We were having a hard time hearing and mimicking an Egyptian-born student’s pronunciation, so I googled it, and played it aloud for the class. Upon hearing my phone, the student from Egypt smiled ear-to-ear with a certain ownership, and you could see pride as his eyes lit up.

Saying Good Morning in Arabic was something I had no idea how to do. With my cell phone never out of reach, I was able to see the spelling and hear it pronounced in less than ten seconds. I love mobile devices for instant gratification like this.

Back in the STEM trailer half an hour later, first graders were designing and making models of #ddegardens, and what kinds of plants they wanted to grow. We were indoors again today, because the weather was still too cold to be outside.

During this learning experience, a first grader asked me how to spell tomato.

Because I don’t give away answers, and I want students to research, investigate, and explore for their own learning benefit, I was not about to spell this word for her. After all, it’s about the learning process–not the product–right? After all, we facilitate–we don’t dictate. After all, we want to raise a community of problem-solvers–not just consumers of information we give to them, right?

Instantly, I told her things like:

  • Try first, and then I’ll help you;
  • Sound it out;
  • You can do it, just keep trying;
  • Getting closer… and even:
  • Did you ask a friend for help?

Actually putting these in writing has helped me see that this feedback was ineffective.

After ten minutes had passed, I finally walked over to her table. As I bent over to pick up some building materials that had fallen on the floor, my phone loudly and clearly pocket-pronounced Good Morning in Arabic. Again. For like the twentieth time this morning.

That. Moment.

It was in that moment that I learned something, too!

I learned how to spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e.

It was like the rooster crowed. A deer in headlights finally moved. Guilt–like I hadn’t felt in a really long time–wrapped its tentacles around me and sunk me like an anchor.

What Just Happened?

  • While I myself benefited from the latest technologies and resources, I required a student to learn how to spell like I had learned decades ago. In fact, the next step might have been to look up tomato in the dictionary?
  • While I accessed the best tool on campus to gain knowledge, I expected a first grader to rely on either newly-learned skills or rote memorization.
  • While holding on to traditional methods of teaching in the past, I was not preparing this student for the present–or future.

Why This Matters

When I need to know:

  • How to spell something (even for this blog), I google it.
  • Directions to get to my next conference, I navigate google maps.
  • When to schedule my son’s doctor appointments, I plan with google calendar.
  • How to fix something at home, I use youtube videos.
  • How to organize my To-Do List, I google-keep it.
  • If my students have questions, I get alerts from google classroom.

This reflection matters because this is how I’m living and learning right now–And it has me wondering how this first grader will be living and learning three decades from now?

This experience has me once again wondering how much of our school or classroom time must be invested in learning information that can be immediately googled or digitally queried with instant gratification.

I can’t remember the last time I held a paper map, dictionary, calendar, to-do lists, or even printed emails in my hands. I haven’t had a landline phone since 2002.

This was posted three years ago, and I’m still wondering…