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Monday, February 6, 2012

Resisting Tech in Classrooms Isn't the Answer

In his recent Los Angeles Times column, "Who Really Benefits From Putting High Tech Gadgets in Classrooms??", Michael Hiltzik criticized U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski for promoting the adaptation of digital technology into American classrooms.   He points out derisively how Thomas Edison suggested essentially the same thing in 1913 - primarily to promote a wider adaptation of the motion picture technology whose patents he then controlled.    Hitzik's argument, essentially, is that the adaption of equipment like iPads and laptops takes resources away from "maintaining good teaching practices and employing good teachers in the classroom," and that our top educators have "bought snake oil" benefiting only certain corporations and private interests.

While Hiltzik may very well be correct in his assertion that at least part of this push has been driven by Apple and other corporate interests, he seems unappreciative of the deeper value in providing students with what are essentially critical tools necessary to compete effectively in the evolving modern workplace.   True, an iPad in and of itself isn't a solution to any problem, but merely a means to an important ojective: to allow students to connect, collaborate, and network - to learn and use social media to accomplish their goals, obtain quality employment, or even create their own opportunities in our increasingly information-based economy.

The greatest challenge in bringing technology into the classroom is making certain that teachers are prepared to provide the proper guidance in using this connective technology.   Social media, after all, isn't simply a means through which to share the minutiae of our lives -it's a means through which individuals anywhere can communicate with others worldwide, and build a network of like-minded and interested friends and/or colleagues.

These concepts seem to be largely missing in the larger national discussion about technology in the classroom.   This isn't about iPads and laptops - it's about online interaction and collaboration.

Students should know about how some of their compatriots - young entrepreneurs, activists and artists - are successfully using social technology.  They need to be celebrated and studied by their peers, and understood by their teachers.  The question remains:  who can teach a skill that is only now evolving?

Embracing technology in the classroom is only part of the challenge.  Learning to use technology to build community may be the single greatest benefit.

1 comment:

  1. Rich, you make several very important points in your post that the education world needs to hear and embrace. First of all, 21st century education is to promote COMMUNICATION, COLLABORATION, CREATIVITY and CRITICAL THINKING. You mention the first two as by products of technology in the classroom and allude to creativity in effectively using computer, ipads and social media for educational purposes. Critical thinking is another discussion, but the opportunities are endless with interaction, blogging and discussion.

    You also mention the probability of effectively using an evolving technology or medium that changes almost daily. This problem is a big one for schools. First teachers do need training and of course this would need to be ongoing to keep up with the addition of educational applications and change. Even if teachers didn’t use the latest app, there are so many that are excellent and serve the needs of a wide variety of learners that not being state-of-the-art would be better than not using any of it.

    Professional development is needed for teachers even if they don’t want one more thing to do or take their time. Appropriately trained administrative/teaching staff is needed to do the research on technology and help teachers use these applications in their classrooms. This person may even do a classroom lesson from time to time. I know this takes a believer in this philosophy and of course, money, or differently appropriated funds. Doing this would solve other problems such as differentiated learning and implementing integrated curriculum. One person in a building to meet these needs for all of the teachers would be the ideal. I don’t need to specify the details - you can imagine all of the offerings that can happen with education like this.

    Educators are aware of the need for technology. There is fear of it in many ways(using a phone may enable kids to text their friends or cheat on tests) and actually many teachers have enthusiasm knowing the ability technology has to reach a wide variety of learners. News bulletin to teachers: Kids are texting in class constantly. They have figured out how to hide their phone.

    Many teachers and administrators feel somehow corrupted by someone else doing the teaching (the technology). Teachers like to talk and share what they know and would have to transition to become educational facilitators rather than "teachers" to make this work well. That change would impact teacher training-a very needed change, IMHO. I hear over and over “I am not going to do technology for technology’s sake.” These ideas are not that. It is time to step up to student's needs and offer them all of these possibilities. As you say, this is an opportunity for creative expression and to become aware of many career opportunities for the world of the future.

    I know what we should do and even how to do it with teachers. How do you think we can get there?