Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Becoming Obsolete

The Daily Riff recently released a list of "21 things that will become obsolete in education by 2020." There of those of us that will sit back and simply say "and....?" There are others whose knuckles turn white as they dig their nails into the armrests of their chairs in fear and/or anger.

Think about it though. Take a look at your students - what do they know - what are they using now that we never imagined?

I have a four-year-old at home. She has grown up in a world with digital cameras, DVRs, Netflix, various mobile learning devices, and constant access to the internet. At age two, she had learned to navigate YouTube and click on her favorite recommended videos (i.e. anything with Disney princesses). By age 3, she is able to navigate around on a computer, access her favorite apps, and can operate her mom's digital camera better than many adults.

Education is changing; it has been changing. Our students know more and do more than we give them credit for. Unfortunately, many of our learning institutions have failed to effectively integration technology and learning. They have added this, that, and the other thing. They have put together workshop after workshop, but there's still a profound gap between integration and learning.

I honestly hate to say this, but part of the blame lays among teachers. Now I cannot blame all teachers. There are those who actively engage their students and integrate technology into their lessons. However, there is a much larger majority that do not. My department conducts up to six workshops a semester. I am lucky to get an average of seven people per workshop. Next semester we are pushing out up to six workshops a month and I fear our enrollment numbers will be weak at best. Mind you, these workshops are offered to seventeen districts and I still can't fill a class.

So what can be done? If we can't rely on the teachers, who can we rely on? In a recent meeting with one of my districts, I simply suggested empowering the students. (1) Allowing them to incorporate their own technology will equate to less equipment the district has to purchase. (2) The students eat, sleep, and breathe technology. Why not letter them stay connected in the classroom? Why not let them incorporate their skill set in the classroom? Why not transform education and put the power in the hands of the student? Maybe our students will embrace the opportunity, especially seeing that many of our teachers are still lagging behind.

I also encourage districts to run pilot programs with their more capable teachers who are willing to integrate technology and work with their students. Devise usage policies where students can bring in their own mobile learning devices, access the building's WiFi, and engage themselves. Districts could also establish loaner programs where students without mobile learning devices can borrow one for the day or the term depending on availability.

If the teachers aren't going to use the equipment, why not put it in the hands of those who will?

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