The Digital Natives are Restless

¿How many times do you think the average American checks their phone every day? Ten times? Twenty? Forty-eight? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the average American checks their phone over 150 times a day - just about once every 6 minutes. And did you know that the average student spends over 10 hours a day with some sort of electronic device?

Before you go back to checking your phone, get this: by the time they graduate, our students will have spent more time sitting in front of a screen than in front of a teacher. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t seem like great news to me!
Every year, when school starts back up, I spend a great deal of time thinking about how to reach my screen-addled student-zombies.  So what do you do about the  technology and the internet dilemma? Take part in our online poll & answer: How do you use the internet in your classroom?
A couple of summers ago I was at a school giving a talk on 21st century schools and technology. The Mesozoic school where I was speaking didn’t have internet. I shouldn’t have been surprised. It was in Georgia. Actually, the school had plenty of internet - they just blocked it from teachers and students. I guess they didn’t want any one getting any ideas - or information - in their heads. I was flabbergasted, and I couldn’t exactly lead my workshop on technology without technology. That was when I understood what life must be like for Amish computer science teachers.
A school without the internet is like a library without books. Imagine going to a library to check out a book and the librarian says, “Oh no, there’s some dangerous books out there. We don’t want anybody getting their hands on those.”
Or you go to the airport. “I’d like a ticket for Miami.” “Miami, oh sorry, there was a crash last summer. Flights are dangerous. We don’t do flights here.”
A school’s chief job is educating students, and the internet is the greatest source of information in the history of the world, a tool, so magically amazing that it contains all the questions, answers, and knowledge of humankind at the touch of a button. Imagine having that kind of power at your disposal and deciding not to use it. Shame on them!
Of course, there is the other extreme. You may have witnessed this scene before. The classroom is peaceful and quiet. Everyone is online and working furiously at their computer. What could possibly be wrong? You walk to the back of the classroom to see the amazing learning that has been unleashed on the students, and behold a room full of teenagers - all updating their facebook status.
So we have a fine line to walk with the tools of technology in our classrooms.  Sometimes I use my students’ ubiquitous devices and reach right through their screens to grab their attention.


Light a spark in your classroom. Challenge, delight, & excite your students with our daily infographic. Project each day's infographic onto your overhead and let the curiosity & exploration begin. You'll see some great new features on our infographics page. There's a tag cloud in the sidebar where you can search for the perfect infographic for whatever topic you're teaching. And now, each new infographic comes with a download button so you can download and print out any of our great infographics and questions to use with your classes whenever and wherever you want.

Other times, I like to help my electronically-fatigued students digitally detox by carving out a non-connected safe-space in my classroom.


Fishbowls are lively and intimate classroom debates where students learn to be active listeners. Students love the quiet focus of Fishbowls, and have so much fun debating, they don't ever realize how much they are learning. Teachers love fishbowls because students are forced to learn and think before they speak. In a fishbowl, all the digital noise, clutter, and distraction grinds to a halt as students focus on the lively debate at hand. Despite all the hard work fishbowls require, at the end of the year my students' only complaint is that they didn't get enough of them.

Before you check your phone, just remember, teaching is like having a faucet in your hand. You can turn off all the water and watch your students die of thirst, or you can flood your room and drown your students. Here's a better option. Teach your students to swim, and fill up the pool!




Get out your phone's calendar. There's a couple of events coming up this fall you won't want to miss.

On October 7
, I'll be leading a one-day workshop on Engaging and Empowering Students with the 4 Cs in cosmopolitan Clemmons, NC.
If you want to find out what the four Cs are, you'll have to C me there. Join us for this exciting and reinvigorating day!

I'll also be leading a one-day AP GoPo workshop on election day, November 3, at James River High School in majestic Midlothian, VA. If you want a refresher from our AP summer institute, please join us on election day.

For those of you in Tennessee. I got nothin'. Start driving east!
How was your back-to-school professional development? That's what I thought. Next time around, why not bring an exciting day of creative & inspiring Professional Development to your school? Just have your principal contact me at

And I'd be remiss not to mention the fantabulous units, the uncommon Commonweal labs, and the rambunctious raps about James Madison just a mouse click away. Juicy!

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Happy Trails!