Digital Natives

Athens ISD’s Erin York preaches her message like an old-time tent revivalist. As an Instructional Technologist, she insists that kids today learn differently than their parents did. That means educators must learn to teach differently or miss out on connecting with all their students.

“There’s still a place for traditional, stand-and-talk teaching,” says York. “An engaging teacher who builds relationships, tells good stories and relates well to kids will always have a place. But there’s no doubt that more and more often, students today tune out pure, lecture-based instruction.”

Rather than combat the new methods young people are using to approach learning, York became an early adopter of technology in the classroom instead — first using it as a behind-the-scenes teaching tool and eventually in the classroom itself. As the district’s instructional technologist, York goes into classrooms where she supports and encourages teachers to become more comfortable and fluent with adapting technology as teaching enhancement tools.

“Technology used correctly can make a lesson more engaging and relevant to the kids, more real for them,” said York. “Students today are digital natives. They grow up digitally fluent. I want to close the generational gap.”

Athens Middle School sixth-grade math teacher Andrea Patterson is one of the teachers closing that gap thanks to York. She uses technology to visually and audibly record her lessons in her first-period class, which she can then replay in subsequent classes — as she moves around from student to student monitoring how each is responding. “Erin has been a supporter of my classroom from the first day I started to implement my technology,” said Patterson.

York believes this evolution in the classroom is a good thing. “Kids really value themselves as problem solvers,” she said. “It’s about teaching kids how to access knowledge and content and learn from that — for life.” #IAmTXEd  Athens Independent School District - Texas