We recently finished reading The Crucible in my Junior English classes. We were about to start reading the young adult novel Monster. To kind of keep with the court trial theme of things, I decided to have my students (about 140 of them) research a well-known trial of their choice. Topics ranged from the OJ Simpson trial to Casey Anthony's case to the trial of Socrates. Rather than grabbing that information and regurgitating into a simple report, I decided to have them share the information in the form of a breaking news article, as if the jury's verdict had just been reached for the trial. The article was to appear in the first two pages of a newspaper from that date--real or hypothetical. Some other things were to be included as well. Not all that original, I know, but still better than a plain report.
So, getting to the point of this blog entry, I thought I would share a Word template from several years ago that was formatted into a mock newspaper. I had used it in the past for a different assignment, but it fit perfectly for this need after a few tweaks. The plan was that I would then share the Word document for students to use as their template, and things would be good to go.
In recent years, my school system has been urging us to drink the Google kool-aid. Many of the students I have this year have been conditioned to type assignments using GoogleDocs. A few years ago, this newspaper assignment was no big deal. Now, the whole thing was a complete crash and burn in a fiery explosion. To my surprise, the bulk of my 11th grade students had no idea what to do with a file. The basic concept of files and file management was murky for them. Yes, the process of retrieving and opening (and later uploading) a file is a foreign concept to many of my high school students.
Despite being warned not to, some kids were trying to open the file in GoogleDocs, which jacked up the formatting and confused them. I learned that the majority of my students don't really understand the different ways of managing a file. They don't get the difference between a local copy and cloud storage. Downloading and editing and uploading a file are now foreign concepts. This same activity ten years ago ran trouble free…with younger students.
In recent years, as technology advances and becomes more abundant, I have observed that my students, ironically, have become noticeably less tech competent. They use it every day, more than any other generation, but they understand less about it. They have become what I now call the "fill-in-the-blank-technology generation." They like simple, instant, automated tech. Anything beyond that, and most of them start shutting down. If it's not "click and go," many of them don't know what to do…and most of those don't care to know.
I know, the future is in the cloud. I love the cloud. Almost everything I do is integrated with either OneDrive or DropBox. I was an early fan of cloud based storage services. I'm not expecting students to decry progress and carry flash drives or floppies. But, there are times when a document may not work that well in an online application like Google Docs or Word Online. What happens to these students once they enter to workforce and someone emails them a file? Then what? It's not a preferred workflow, but shouldn't everyone know how to download a file and upload/send it somewhere different after editing it?
Or, should they? Is the old method of file management, well, too old and outdated to fool with anymore? Are today's students simply part of a progressive digital evolution, and it is a waste of time teaching file management outside of the instant-cloud environment?
Am I wrong to think everyone should understand the difference between cloud storage v/s device storage, and the difference between browser based applications and desktop applications? Are these things that are almost dead anyway--today's equivalent of film processing in a darkroom? I honestly would like some sincere feedback on the issue. As technology evolves, which skills and concepts are foundational and fundamental essentials students should be equipped with, and which should we let fall to the side?