Thursdays with North (and East) Oakview

    Are you aware that our elementary students are “digital natives?” They have never known anything else. What they will see and experience over the next 20 years is yet to be invented. I wondered today what will be the phrase that causes them to admit they have never really used that part of learning.

    My phrase today was “Just Ask Siri.” It all started in the drop-off line at North this morning when a third grade boy approached me and shared he and his dad were learning about weird animals like “Tasmanian Devils and Ligers.” He went on to tell me that he and his dad were using dad’s smart phone while sitting on the couch. They simply “Asked Siri” and all kinds of information came up including things to read and videos.

    I must admit I know a thing or two about Tasmanian Devils because of my time in front of the television as a child watching cartoons on Saturday mornings. I had no idea what a Liger is or looks like but according to the 3rd grade student it is a cross between a lion and a tiger.

    Feeling a little out of things that are important to elementary kids, I checked in with my life coach, Travis – a first grade student. He was working on forming the letter “K-k” and announced that they were the very best “k’s” he had ever made. He asked if I knew that king and kangaroo started with a “k.” I knew that answer and didn’t have to Ask Siri. I did ask him about smart phones and did he know how to find information using one. “Of course, everybody knows how to do that” was his matter of fact answer.

    The fourth grade classes at North were traveling to Pando for the annual tubing experience. They are taught all of the safety precautions in their Physical Education classes and how to dress warmly in layers. Most importantly they are taught how to hang on to the tube and get out of the way when you reach the bottom of sliding hill. When I asked a few of the kids if they knew anything else about Pando and where they found the information the answer was in “digital native” vocabulary – “we ask Siri or do a Google Search.” I was pleased that one child said he asked his older sister if it was fun. I wanted to ask if his sister’s name is Siri.

    Students at North, and in all of our Northview schools, understand the value of reading well. This is because the partnership between our staff, students, and families. You can stop any student in any grade at any school and have a “book talk” about what they are currently reading. It might be the collection of 52 different poems in a first grade room or “To Kill a Mockingbird” being read by a high school student.

    At North all of the books everyone read over the winter break are listed on two bulletin boards in the hallway.

    Meanwhile back at East Oakview……….

    Students in a second grade classroom at East Oakview were deep into a “non-fiction” reading lesson. Kids were spread out in groups throughout the classroom. One group was reading about snake. Other groups were learning about lizards, how to be a veterinarian, ocean animals, and monkeys. The students were asked to take a risk and agree upon two questions they wanted answered about their topic. “This means it is okay to say that you don’t know something about your topic” encouraged their teacher. “No one can know everything” she said. I wondered if she knows about “Siri.”

    One boy had three books on his desk – monkeys, apes, and gorillas. I asked him why he picked monkeys as his topic. “I started liking them way back in first grade because my teacher had 1,800 monkeys in her room.” I wasn’t sure about the number of monkeys in a room but I did make a mental note to visit that room next. I asked him where else he could get information about monkeys and he said he could ask his older sister and brother who are in fourth grade. “They are really smart and even know their times tables! I also could ask my mom, she is even smarter than they are.”

    I moved on to the next group. They were studying Big Jungle Cats. “Do you know what a Liger is?” I asked with a small smile on my face. Two of the kids didn’t know but the third boy did. He found outabout Ligers by searching the internet. The other two students immediately jumped in on how you could find out by using your I-pad or your parent’s smart phone. “You can just ask Siri” said one of the group members. “Do you have a smart phone Dr. P?” I pulled the phone from my pocket and admitted that I have never used “Siri.” Suddenly I had three second grade teachers.

    “You push that big button on the bottom and hold it, then you say ‘what is a Liger?’ and Siri will give you an answer.” Sure enough, up came a voice that said “here is what I found.” There was a picture of a Liger and a short explanation that they don’t live in the wild because tigers and lions don’t live in the same places. I asked them how they knew about the “Siri” application and the response was that of a confident digital native -“Everybody knows how to ask Siri” they said.

    Tomorrow, the kids in the class are using lap top computers to research their topics. The fact that East Oakview (and all of our schools) have wireless internet connections is an expectation of our digital natives. Thanks go out to the Northview community for making the connections possible by your approval of building and technology bonds.

    As I moved to leave the classroom one of the Big Jungle Cats group followed me with a final piece of advice about Siri. “You can ask Siri about directions too. Just say where you want to go and Siri will tell you. Then you go to your GPS app.”

    I wanted to ask Siri where to find the first grade classroom that has 1,800 monkeys.

    Down the hall outside a third grade classroom, students were working on a technique used in our reading workshop model. They were writing about their reading and posing questions for members in their small group. One student was reading and writing about Cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He had never heard the musician’s music. I told him I had a CD by the musician and would bring it in next week. He said that he could just look it up on the internet or ask his mom to ….. you got it ….. “Ask Siri” or download it from I-Tunes.

    Students in first, second, and third grade learning in traditional methods and in methods that will be seen as traditional for digital natives in the future. This has huge implications for all of us.

    Thanks Travis for reminding me that making good “K-k” letters is still important. Now that I know how to Ask Siri I can find even more stuff that is important to digital natives.


    Mike Paskewicz, Superintendent
    Northview Public Schools


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here