Monday, October 01, 2012

The things (my students) carry

Lucky Penny by me
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned an assignment that I was going to do which was loosely based on Tim O'Brien's short story, "The Things They Carried." One idea that I take away from O'Brien's story and from this assignment is that our artifacts are inextricably linked to our identity.

If you're a teacher, you should try this assignment with your students because the things our students carry say a lot about them. The assignment gave me a new perspective on my students and showed them in a positive light. I now know them in ways that I might not have if not for this activity. And the funny thing is that these things that say so much about them were right before my eyes all the time.

A couple of themes emerged from the portraits. The first is that these potential learning tools either aren't used very often in their classes or are banned outright in schools. My students use their digital tools as calculators, translators, dictionaries, ways to exchange notes, to create school publications, search for information, and draft essays, just to name a few. The other thing I learned is that their artifacts represent significant relationships – ways to connect with family members near and far, to loved ones who have passed away, and to their peers.

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