I am a tech geek. There is no way around it. I enjoy gadgets, websites, creating, connecting, just about anything that has to do with technology. I have an inherent interest that has allowed me to educate myself. I have no formal training (you might be surprised I would admit that I am self trained, but I am proud of it) ...but I have, much like many of our students today, found a passion. Educational Technology is my passion and I want to give a little insight on how I think that fits into the greater world of education.
As a classroom teacher I always tried to make sure that technology was a part of what I did in the classroom. From using Blackboard to Google Apps and other Web 2.0 tools, I was a staple in the computer lab (much to the dismay of my colleagues who also wanted lab time). To me technology was just a part of the way that I operated in the classroom. It was what I did and wanted for my students, not something extra for me to do in my classroom. But more importantly, before all of that, I felt it was important to have high quality engaging lessons with rock solid relationships with my students that allowed them to become "thinkers" and "creators".
You may or may not be surprised to hear me say this then...Technology is not the answer.
You read that right, in education technology is not the silver bullet we are all waiting for. Its not Khan Academy, its not iPads, its not flipping the classroom, and it is not (insert fad technology here).
The most important part of education reform and increasing student achievement is....drum roll...high quality teachers and lessons that are relevant and ENGAGE students. Sure, there are extenuating factors in a students life, I get that, but high quality lessons that demand that students (spoiler here) think and use real world application skills is the most important thing you do as a teacher. It is not our content, but what student can create with our content.
What does this look like? Well I was inspired by an article I read that talks about promoting deep learning in in students. You can read it here.
So what is the role of technology and education then Mr. I Have a Passion for Educational Technology. Well let me tell you what I think..........
I will use a medicine analogy here. Thirty years ago there were terrific doctors in the world. They were able to diagnose and treat patients with the technology that was available to them at the time. If you took the best doctor from 30 years ago and magically transplanted them to today they would quickly learn the tools they had 30 years ago would not be sufficient today. If the doctor tried to use the same tools as 30 years ago...he would have no patients. His patients would demand the latest technology and current research and theory. However, the great doctors of 30 years ago would adjust to today's world. They would demand and implement current theory, practice, and technology. Not for technologies sake, but because it made them a better doctor.
Don't the students of today deserve to have the most up to date technology and current educational practice?
Technology should just be the way we do things. It should not be an extra thing that teachers have to "fit into" their day. Utilizing the latest technology should become the way that we operate. Example: Blackboard. Our students today demand that they have access to their learning outside of the 60 minutes that you may see them in a day. Colleges, universities, and technical schools use Learning Management System's like Blackboard so that students can have their education outside the walls of the classroom. In fact, many corporate training happens within an LMS. Exposing students to this type of environment is crucial as we prepare them for whatever lies ahead for them after they leave K-12 education.
At first, yes, it might seem like something extra, but we have to meet the needs of today's students. Once you start using an LMS, an online gradebook, or having students create the hope is that it will become part of how you operate as a teacher, not something extra. The goal is communication and access, and the technology allows that to happen.
While technology is not the silver bullet, it is the way things are done in our world today. To ignore it would be a diservice to our students. Embrace technology and its role in the classroom and world today. When you do, you will increase student engagement and help prepare your students for life after high school.
I am sure you have seen the Sir Ken Robinson videos...but if you have not here they are again. Enjoy, they really speak to the urgency of the shift that must happen in education. The first is a follow up to his initial talk. The second has 8 million YouTube views.
Here is the full Changing Paradigm video. No political commentary from me...I just focused on the education part of the video.