This weekend I observed a small group of 12 year old boys seamlessly using technology to solve a very small problem. What was impressive was how fluidly they identified the problem and chose the best tool available to resolve it together. There was no formal teacher (though there were informal leaders), no lesson plan, and no stated objective; they were collaborating to find and share information they needed. The problem was a simple one; they needed to know what musical group was singing the song that was playing on the radio. They argued about it for a moment, and then they quickly used the technology they had available (cell phones) to solve the problem. They did so by using a feature I was previously unaware of; they held one cellphone up to the speaker and almost immediately they were provided with the title of the song and a short sample of it. They resolved their problem in less than a minute, but my curiosity was piqued and I had questions for them. I asked them how much this service costs, and they told me it was free. I asked them why a phone cellular phone service would give away such a service for free when it makes millions of dollars selling ringtones. These savvy guys explained that the wireless cellphone provider wanted the users to buy the song, which they could do right then and there! They chose not to buy the song (apparently they are responsible for any such charges on their cellphone bill), but they had answered their own question. Almost as quickly as it had started, it was over. No arguing over who was right or wrong. Their conversation quickly changed to equally important issues; skateboarding techniques and guitar hero. Incredible, I thought! Fortunately, I didn’t interrupt. I almost did, suggesting to them that when they got to a computer, they could type in the name of the song to find the artist, or perhaps even go to the radio station’s website for the recent playlist. Thank goodness I kept my thoughts to myself, for I quickly realized my answer would have been, well, so 2005 to them! Without any prompting, they had used the available tools to resolve a small problem and moved on. Though they didn’t know it, these boys had informally personified our district’s second strategic goal, which states, “Utilizing technology effectively as a tool, students will communicate, construct learning, and demonstrate problem-solving and decision-making skills.” Fantastic!
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