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Integrating New Tech? Students and Teachers Can Learn From Each Other


Aaron Manfull

I've seen a lot of changes in my 20 years in the classroom, and I've tried to keep up with the latest tech tools. As a journalism adviser, I've gone from teaching students how to manually paste up pages to helping them move their work online. I taught during a time when I thought broadcast journalism would never be something I would teach, to now, when every student has a high-powered video camera in their pocket.

To make sure I'm preparing my students for what they will find in college or in the professional field, I need to keep up with the ever-evolving media landscape. Throughout my career, I've learned three lessons that drive my use of technology daily.

Don't just use a tool because it's there.

Many times, new tools can help make things more organized or make a 15-minute job only take a couple minutes. While educators should keep in the loop on new tools available, we also need to be cautious of just using something because it's new and flashy. The standard I set for new tools is that if it's not better in some way than what is currently in place, I'm not going to use it.

Don't feel like you have to know everything.

If I limited my students to work with technology and tools that I knew, I would be limiting them—and that's bad for many reasons. I don't know everything. That's tough for some people to acknowledge, but for me it's been empowering, both for me and my students.

A few years back when Snapchat first came out, I asked one of my journalism classes to tell me who the Snapchat expert in the room was. They all agreed on one student, who I asked to give me a 15-minute lesson on how the new social network worked and how people were using it. With this philosophy, I don't have the pressure of having to know everythin—and my students get to be the experts on some subjects, teaching me and their peers.

Don't just assume teens know how to use the technology.

While students have taught me quite a few things through the years, a misconception that many educators have is that students know how to do everything with tech. Even though teenagers today have grown up with tech and seem tied to it, many students are novices when it comes to loading paper in a printer or installing new programs on their computer.

Every time I introduce a new technology to my students, I need to provide the proper training for them to be successful. I can't just hand a student an iPad and tell them to make a movie. I need to work with them on everything from how the iPad cart works and how to shoot video properly, to how to edit video in iMovie and how to export it so others can watch it.

Aaron Manfull is in his 21st year of advising student media. He is currently the director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Mo. He is the Journalism Education Association digital media chair and co-director of Media Now. He is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year and is one of the authors of the textbook Student Journalism and Media Literacy. You can find him on Twitter and Instragram @manfull.

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