Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Response: Technology Doesn't Belong in the Classroom?

An insightful post by Dominic Manola on a disturbing meeting of individuals that were discussing "the impact of social media during a school crisis". It isn't just disturbing that we have to have meetings about school crisis, it is the fact that it turned into another one of those "the problem with kids today is technology so ban it and the problems will go away" meetings.

Here is what history has taught us:

1. Once a modern invention/idea/convenience has taken hold in common culture (indoor plumbing, books, electricity, radio, TV, credit cards, Internet) and as displaces, enhances, or fills a void that was there before schools must eventually respond to its arrival.
2. Schools, which were built to resist change, will resist the change - driven by paranoid adults and experts (and those invested in the old) - usually by discrediting, banning, and citing that the innovation is doomed to fail (see inkwells vs. ballpoint pens 1815-1950).
3. Society will quickly demand the new skill in the workplace, to respond to consumer demand or efficiency, or both. Parent and Business will wonder why schools are not preparing kids for society.
4. Schools will change, slowly, as a result of external pressure. Kids will wonder why their school is so far behind their real life and why the adults can't do things they take for granted. In the meantime, kids will do amazing things outside of school - which they will turn into multi-national influential companies that come back to tell schools how to do their business with pressure from the politicians they fund (see the Gates Foundation).

These steps repeat themselves for each new modern invention/idea/convenience that takes hold.

Should we be cautious, responsible, and caring of how new things will impact our kids? - YES

Should we fear-monger and blame innovation for all of the woes of today? - NO

We should responsibly teach kids how to use whatever will come along in their life, how to evaluate the pros and cons of any new innovation, to look for ways to integrate any resource to do good work, and with an expectation that they will use anything at their disposal to improve the world around them - for themselves - for those around them - and for those that follow them.

None of that can happen in our schools when we ignore, ban, blame, or hide from innovation.

So - How do we break the cycle?

Start sharing the stories of success. Share in your school, share outside your school, and share with the world. We need people to see evidence that kids can do great things - they need to know that today kids are more intelligent, powerful, and inventive with access to more information than any other time before in human history. They are capable of understanding how to use that power for good as the leaders of today and the leaders of tomorrow. Let's be part of preparing them to harness that power for good.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Crazy ideas or just a different point of view?

Recently, my 8-year-old and I had a conversation about his recent trip to the school library where he was shocked to learn that there was a special section of books that he could not check out and take home. The conversation went something like this:

Son: “What is an encyclopedia and why is it so special that we can’t
borrow one?”
Me: “They are books that contain information and facts about things
you might be interested in. You go there to get started
learning about something”
Son: “Like Wikipedia”
Me: “Exactly!”
Son: “Who would be crazy enough to print out all of Wikipedia?”

After I recovered from my dumbfounded look, I was reminded how perspective and experience define our understanding of the world. From the view of a child today, a printed encyclopedia is crazy. When I was a kid, the encyclopedia was an amazing book where you could learn about “anything.” Same book, two interpretations of value based on experience. When was the last time you took a look at the world form someone else's perspective? Teachers: consider sitting in on a class as a student. Administrators: visit a staff development session and participate as a teacher. Perhaps changing our view will prevent us from doing something so crazy as printing out the Internet.

Cross Posted in the Tech and Learning Newsletter October 8th 2014