Friday, May 18, 2012

Improving education: Not technology but perspective

A new discussion is breaking out that echoes discussions of long ago. Move away from the factory model of schools. Create a more open, flexible, and organic educational system.

Change our schools. Our factory model needs to give way to newer, better, more appropriate ways of education.

The power of technology will unleash new, better, faster, more engaging, and more meaningful ways to educate our children.

In some ways, the power of technology has changed the way we educate.

Most classrooms either have or have access to technology. It transforms learning experiences.

One of our classrooms was studying frogs. A student - an elementary school student - connected with a "frog" expert, arranged to have the expert connect through technology with the class, and the class then engaged in a Skype discussion.

Powerful, engaging, and ultimately very similar to experiences that those of us who are older had when an expert would come to our classroom to talk with us about their specialty.

Yes the Skype experience is similar but it is not exactly the same. Information was transformed because of the technology. Information was more easily obtained.

This transformation means something. Students take ownership. Teachers are not the guardians of information. Any nine or twelve or fifteen year old with a cellphone can access Google and get information, check answers, or challenge a point of view. Students can become the expert more easily. Information or ideas can be challenged.

The real power of technology is not the technology - it is the perspective.

Technology changes student expectations of how learning takes place.

For today's students the expectation is that learning will be personalized.

For today's student the expectation is that technology will be a part of what they do.

Yet, from a teacher's perspective, technology is hard to control. Students can go places and find information that the teacher may not know. The information may challenge what the teacher said.

The "information" may even be incorrect but the student may believe it because there it is an the Internet.

So how do we use technology to improve our classrooms?

Technology is not the answer. Technology is a tool. The change to our schools will not come because technology has been introduced. I don't really believe that technology is the change agent.

What is the change agent? A change in perspective.

Students have changed already.

If we - the educational establishment of administrators and teachers - don't change our perspective of how to engage students we will be left behind. No longer can we believe that we have all the answers. The answer is teachers and administrators who believe in the power of students and trust that together we can create learning environments that will enrich our lives.

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