Classrooms and working environments tend to favor more extroverted students. They are the ones raising their hands, leading group discussions, and asking for additional help. Introverted students tend to hang in the back, hesitate to engage with others, and take more time to process what’s going on. As a result, they often get overlooked or written off by their instructors; or worse, their introversion is seen as a “problem” that needs “fixing.”
With more and more technology in the classroom affecting learning, though, introverts suddenly have opportunities for engagement they haven’t enjoyed before. Philip Bump from the Atlantic magzine notes that “it takes energy to engage with other people … it’s tiring.” But he goes on to say that technology has created “a Golden Age for introverts.”
We don’t want the voices of our more introverted students to be lost or dismissed, and there are several advantages technology in the classroom offers that helps these introverted students be themselves, but in a more connected way.
Introverts have a voice. Social interaction is taxing for introverts, and they are less likely to socially engage in large or small groups in the ways we teachers like to reward. But technology gives them a voice by providing a vast array of communicative options that do not require the grueling face-to-face interactions that dominate the schoolroom.
Introverts have options for demonstrating their proficiency. Often introverts are very comfortable with certain skills, but those skills can collide with the circumstances in which we ask students to demonstrate them. Now they can express those skills in other forms and venues.
Introverts can respond later. Part of the taxing process of social interaction is that communication requires an immediate response. There is little time for thinking, processing, or adjusting. Via technology, though, introverts can read a message, post, text, email, comment, or article and take their time to comfortably devise a response.
Communication becomes about information-sharing. Another factor of communication we teachers take for granted is the endless series of subtle social cues that accompany the information we share. We must interpret context, tone, emotion, gestures, expressions, and so on, and this may prove intimidating or taxing for introverts. Technology strips communication of these social factors and allows it to be much more – though not entirely – based on the utilitarian need for information.
Introverts have time to synthesize and process. In addition to simply having more time to respond to communication, introverts also benefit from taking their time to fully sort through and understand communications from a variety of sources. Instead of getting overwhelmed with bombardments, they can absorb information at their own pace. This plays perfectly into the flipped classroom, where students can expose themselves to the information, then process it in time for class.
Introverts benefit from asynchronous learning opportunities. Student-centered learning based on communication and self-study allows introverts to adapt the structure and pace of their learning to their preferences. They are no longer belabored by the demands of an extrovert-oriented classroom, but rather can manage their own discovery and interactions.
As we examine how introverts interact with and through their technology, we suddenly find that the shy kid in the back of the classroom is hilarious in the class’s chatroom; the quiet girl over there is actually marvelously creative on her blog; and the reserved boy who shuns the loud kids around him is dedicated to discovering and sharing as much as he can about his future career industry. Although as teachers we are geared to looing for those external, social signs as marks of achievement, we have more opportunities now to incorporate technological means by which introverts can demonstrate their proficiency without having to change who they are.
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Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and currently serves as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website ACTWritingTips.com.