I recently read @mcleod twitter post of 8 great questions asked by Anya Kamenetz around technology and schools. This intrigued me, as I am working through some of the same questions, myself. I thought I would see where they take me.
1 What can technology solve?
For me, the biggest draw for technology is both the accessibility, the ubiquity and the potential for student engagement. Many students are already immersed (not all, though) in the technology that schools are looking to bring in, and it seems only sensible for teachers and administrators to look to these tools for improving student learning. But, what does it solve? Student engagement has been an issue since the first great technological advance of personal slate boards. They probably provided distractions in the class, and teachers were probably constantly confiscating them or sending them to the office (go see the principal about what you were doing on the slate with that chalk). However, they solved the issue around getting students to practice their lines, work through math problems, even get them engaged in the studies, as opposed to watching the teacher read from a parchment of text.
Technology today is a little different. It is colourful, bright, loud, moving, interactive (more so than the black slate). I believe the biggest difference is that today’s technology is all about connections: connections to data, people, and worlds that we only once imagined and were brought to life by only the gifted writers. These new connections can provide insight into the human condition, as students sitting in a classroom (or in a utopian scenario, a park or garden or beach) and have deep, meaningful conversations, building relationships, with students sitting in another classroom, on a different continent. If social responsibility is a leading learning outcome, this provides the best way to gain empathy, compassion and action that I can think of. All subjects (if there will be any subject areas in the future) can benefit from seeing ‘how another individual learns, sees the world and creates’.
2 What is this new technology helpless to solve?
Well, engagement jumps to mind. Just because you put the newest, shiniest technology in front of someone, does not automatically engage them. The inquiry questions are lead to the deeper learning, not the technology to help solve them.
I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how teachers and schools get the most from the limited resources available to provide the best education possible for all learners. To be honest, I’m stumped. Going 1:1 seems logical, but logistics might get in the way with limited servers, failed technology without strong support, and the issue of keeping students on task (if that has ever not been an issue, I’d be amazed: students, like all human beings, are inquisitive and like to go where their mind’s questions take them). Shared devices sound like a breeding ground for the whooping-cough and measles, so I’d prefer not to lend out my own devices.
Moving from assessments that are ‘google-able’ to deeper thinking, collaborative inquiries is the way to go, in my view, but that can be done without technology (why does this fig tree not produce fruit when the one next to it does?). Books (good old-fashioned technology) go a long way in cataloguing information and ideas from the past, but don’t necessarily keep up to date as easily as, say, wikipedia. This is still not a reason to avoid the books and stay on the ‘world wide interweb’, as my mother calls it.
I guess my main thoughts are that this new technology is here; students are engaged by it and use it in ways that might not be as responsible as we would like; and so schools should start to proved digital citizenship protocols embedded in their institutions, before they become irrelevant.
Part two, next time.
(Side note, spell check on the technology has often prevented me from looking like a fool, even though it probably comes through quite clearly)