Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some Thoughts On The Current State Of Edtech...

Recently I have done a lot of speaking to different groups on the current state of technology in education. The first thing I tell people is that I am not really an expert. I am not a professor nor have I done years of research to prove some theory. What I do have is classroom experience. What I do have is direct contact with students and teacher and know how technology works and doesn't work in my building and my district. 

I have a lot of opinions about technology and technology in education that I mostly keep to myself because who am I? I am low on the totem pole of edtech. But there is one thing that really bugs me when some that are high up on the totem poll talk about. Technology as the answer to all our educational problems. 

Technology is not "the" answer to our educational problems. There are many in our profession who travel this country and the world saying that tech will save us all. And that is just not true. Sure, we are a technology driven society and need to have students who understand how to use technology appropriately but take a look around. All this great technology and we still have millions out of work, budget shortfalls and countless other problems. 

Putting all of that aside, technology is a crucial "part" of the solution. But again it is not "the" solution. Being that it is part of the solution it has to be embraced by all in education. We as teachers, administrators, school board members and parents can not simply cast technology aside as "another fad" in education. We all have to be both learners and champions of technology in our classrooms and offices. 

As a Technology Integrator it is my job to help classroom teachers understand that with just a few simple changes to their classroom (via the use of technology) they can have big gains in learning. Beginning this year our 8th grade Language Arts teachers felt they needed to extend their classroom beyond the time they had in class together each day. They took it upon themselves to start class blogs where each day they would post something simple; a poem, quote, very short story, and ask their students for reactions in the comments. At first the comments from the kids were very basic. (I liked this, I did not like this, etc.) But soon, in each group there was that one kid who never spoke out in class and didn't really participate in class who had the most insightful comments. And from then it opened the door to some amazing stuff, that would go on for days. The students would have long conversations about deep, and thought-provoking ideas. 

This then translated to the classroom. The students were move comfortable around each other so when it was time to share writing in the class everyone volunteered to share. No one would hold anything back. These classes bonded all because their teacher introduced something simple like a blog. 

Sounds cliche I know but honestly, maybe it isn't so much anymore. We are educating a generation of students who, for most, all these technologies we have access to in schools, they have had access to from the moment their were born. The iGeneration as they have been called have come to expect a different style of  education than anyone of us are used to. Kids can't sit in rows for an hour while some boring person stands in front of the class with an overbulleted power point and then expect those same students to be "globally competitive" and "ready for the 21st Century" I hate to break it to a lot of people and a lot of school districts but the prep time is over. We are well into the 21st Century. If there are schools and districts out there still talking about preparing kids for the 21st Century, they have missed the boat. Their kids are already behind. 

If these kids are not walking into a classroom where they can use a laptop, or cellphone or iPod or clickers, or interactive whiteboard, they are behind.
If these kids are only tested in their ability to take a multiple choice test and that is the only measure we are using to see if they are learning, we are subjecting them to a limiting education.

If we are not creating classrooms that center around the students, fostering an environment where kids can create using podcasts, Photoshop, Twitter, Google Sites and others, then we might as well throw our hands up and forget about education all together because it would be disservice to this generation to continue in this manor. 

There are lots of other problems with education but access, availability and use of technology in the classroom should not be one of them. There are pockets of goodness out there. We as a profession need to seek them out, promote their awesomeness and strive to make real change, the change our kids need. 

Because it isn't about us. 


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