I have always been fascinated by technology. The cartoons of my childhood were filled with gadgets and heroes, who used technology to rescue the girl and save the world. This interest in technology continued throughout my high school years, and I was an early adopter of the computer, writing term papers on word processors by 1985. I used computers in college, and bought my first PC 1992, just in time for the internet explosion of the mid 90s.

My interest in teaching started when I was 18 and wondering about what I was going to do with my life. Through the friendship and guidance of teachers throughout my school career I was inspired to teach others. At the same time, however, I wanted to have some fun and adventure in my life, so I just decided to go to junior college and see what happened. I took the “5 Year Plan” for my AA degree, but I did finally earn a degree in communications, using computers throughout my personal and educational life.

After that my dad got sick and I was living at home helping the family out, until the tech bug bit me again. Computer animation was finally becoming a power in the mid 90s, and I figured it would be a good medium for telling the creative stories I had been writing for years. So after a couple false starts I was accepted into the Art Institute of Seattle for 2 years. Though I had a passion for technology and storytelling, I did not have a passion to draw, and that was necessary to being any kind of artist. I learned an important lesson about technology: the computer was an instrument, but I must use it well in order to be successful.

In the past 5 years of teaching I have tried my best to integrate technology into my classroom. For three years an LCD projector almost completely replaced a white board and my rather challenging hand writing, allowing me to display either pre-written lectures and lesson plans, or notes typed on a word document and projected on the screen. All of this served my goal of making the texts we studied in class more accessible to students. For me, during the first five years of my teaching career, the text was all important and essential.

But in the past three months I have read many studies regarding how young people are using technology on their own. They live in a media-rich environment where they are constantly connected to the world and to each other through technology. They constantly text their close friends, update their social-network websites daily, and chat with acquaintances from around the world that share their passions. Students are fundamentally different then they were when I was younger, and so they must be educated in fundamentally different ways.

For today’s student it is important to incorporate technology from day one. I would assess each student’s familiarity with a computer by the 2nd week of class, and ensure that they had access either at home or through the school or library. Each student would have an email address and easy access to me and their peers through chat. Some class discussions would be facilitated through chat, while others would involve sharing ideas on a wiki or blog. By making students write down their ideas and share them with others it makes the student’s thought process visible to them and to me. It also allows collaboration and peer review, which helps students identify problems that they may not be able to see in their own work. When fleshed out into lesson plans these ideas will form the basis of a complete modular technology curriculum that can be taught by any teacher and used by any student as a framework for a digital classroom.

But student’s use of technology is only one of the eye-opening concepts I have encountered in my first year of graduate study. Another is my re-introduction to that cornerstone of the effective class: critical thinking. In the rush to keep up with pacing guides and prepare for standardized tests, I have found it to be far too easy to skip over teaching the skills needed to tell truth from falsehood, or to personally evaluate a piece of information. Yet there is nothing more important that a student can learn. All media has some form of bias, which makes it important for students to receive a healthy dose of skepticism about what they read. The greatest harm from online sources is the idea that “everything you read is true”, an idea still held by some older net surfers. The equally dangerous idea is that “nothing you read is true”, resulting from being burned online one too many times. Young adults must develop the tools to tell the difference between truth and lies, or more often than not one person’s truth from another’s.