In my class, we are currently reading the short story, Koko’s Kitten. In case you are unfamiliar, it is about an incredibly talented, sign language-speaking gorilla and her unusual friendship with a kitten. My students absolutely loved this story and empathized in the sad moments with the gorilla, and rejoiced in the incredible friendship that developed. I learned through this story the true meaning of engagement in reading: When students enjoy and are curious about what they are reading about, their memory, knowledge, and endless questioning evolves.
As we finished the story one student asked me if Koko was still alive today. I knew she was, so responded accordingly, but that opened even more questions.
“Where does she live?”
“How old she is?”
“Does she still have a kitten?
The list goes on and on.
I turned on my smartboard, and opened my good friend Google to see if some of these questions could be answered. Solving the math equation, we learned she was 44 years old, and many other interesting things. I came across a site with numerous videos of Koko today. Videos of her eating, signing, playing, celebrating, and much, much more. We spent a good amount of time watching the videos and finding out more information about Koko than I ever knew prior. The questions were endless!
Later, reflecting on my day of teaching, I started thinking about this “unplanned” activity and how the internet had taken my students to places I did not even expect. From reading a simple story, to gaining a full understanding of the character and how she lives. What did we do before the internet, before computers, before technology?
I use technology everyday in my classroom without even thinking about it. Volunteering in different places in Africa really allowed me to realize how lucky we are as teachers. We have all these tools at the tips of our fingers that allow us to be the best teachers we can be. Sometimes I forget about how lucky we are, and how easy it makes our lives. Although some days it can be frustrating, inconsistent, and does everything you ask it not to do, we still need to be grateful for it. The ability to connect to others, solve problems, and ask questions opens areas for investigation and inquiry for our students. Would you be the same teacher without it?