Thinking, Crafting, Doing: Overcoming Fear of Digital Tools

Digital comfort is not synonymous with growing up in the digital age. While most students use popular social media platforms, only a few are comfortable exploring new tools and applications. This is even truer amongst faculty trying to keep up with each new technological application presented.  Digital tools are increasingly user friendly and essential for professional development.  You no longer need to be the next Zuckerberg or Gates to create engaging content, yet technophobia persists.

I recently gave students the option to create an Adobe Spark Video in place of a live presentation providing an opportunity to flourish and communicate with a digital alternative. I assumed the students would unanimously be excited about using digital technology and the tool would appeal to those students who dread public speaking. While all the presentations were quite stellar, only a small number of students tried the new tool. Why?

I am going to veer from the path for a moment to metaphorically explore why. I primarily teach dance, an art that requires you to think, do, and craft simultaneously. Students core learning habits are transparent, there is no hiding in a dance class. There are the thinkers, those who like to make sure they have a comprehensive understanding of the material before they perform. There are the crafters, or creators. Those who enjoy the act of exploration and getting lost in all the possibilities. And then there are the doers, those who just dive-in and work out the kinks while getting very messy. The most accomplished performers synthesize all three processes simultaneously. They think, critically absorbing the movement the instant phrases are shown. They craft, artistically exploring the possibilities as they “try on” new steps. And they do. They just do it- dive right in without worrying about right or wrong. Thinking, Crafting, Doing.

This brings me back to my students. I should not have been surprised at the few doers who took advantage of my offer intended for my thinkers. Which is why this time around I am pushing my class out of their comfort zone and requiring them to try a new tool.

To prepare ourselves and our students to engage in a world that increasingly communicates globally through digital communication, being unafraid might be one of the best qualities we could impart. Fearlessness is not listed in most student learning outcomes.

Before my students try out a new combination, I often ask them “Does life wait for you to live it?”

The answer from students is always “No”

My reply to them, “Neither will this dance routine- just DANCE it!”

In a digital age moving faster than life, shouldn’t we be encouraging our students to develop their digital literacy and crafting our own without fear? Yes, we will get messy, yes, we will make mistakes, and yes, we may get lost along the creative way at times, but the potential for greatness lies in the exploration of the unknown.

Example of Adobe Spark Video as teaching tool: