Monday, February 10, 2014

Educations love affair with consuming technology.

Take a minute to look at the technology in your school.  How much of the technology you see is used for helping students foster 21st Century skills? Creativity and Innovation? Critical thinking & Problem solving? Communication and Collaboration?  What did you see?

A recent article from the Post and Courier from Charleston County highlights this educational mindset.  "I don't see a downside to iPads," said Travis Benintendo, principal of Haut Gap Middle, where every student has an iPad. "It's just another tool to deliver the curriculum. We want kids to be engaged, and iPads allow us to do that."  Delivering the curriculum is dangerously close to eliminating what teachers are needed for.

As education continues to add technology it becomes more apparent that we use more tools that allow consumption.  The classroom is changing, the bells and whistles are evolving but is a chalk board  that different from a smart board?  Is watching films from the spools that different from YouTube?  Of course we miss the clicking of the spools.  Is submitting a worksheet that much different from emailing it or submitting it in a dropbox?  Think of all the ways students use technology to consume education?

Most educators will agree that the more we apply what we learn the better our understanding becomes.  If technology can make all these 21st Century  skills  easier for students, than why are most ed tech companies selling consumption tools?  This is the question that continues to befuddle.  Teachers and administrators must demand more.

If schools want to use technology to create and innovate than teachers need to see it in the real world.  Local experts can help teachers see how different tools are being used professionally.  Most professionals use email without thinking.  This is not a tech skill to measure schools by.  Take your teacher to work days could be a powerful bridge for schools.  Real life situations allow steachers and students to ask the magical question, why is it done that way?  Why not try this? Could it work.  This is where the technology can become a tool that allows us to research and test new ideas.  Skype, Hangouts & Facetime make it incredibly easy to change the classroom to a place where collaborating with experts become nothing more than a phone call.  The more times we ask why the more we can help students find ways to overcome.

The time factor is key to everything we do in schools and administrators must keep this in mind.  Learning technology beyond consumption takes time.  Working across classrooms takes time?  Collaborating with professionals takes time.  Make it happen!  Make that time available, find the money for training more so than just the technology.  Create the environment where teachers cant wait for the next learning day.  Compared with the dread of a fair amount of PD days across this country.  Re-imagine some of the professional development we place teachers in and build bridges for schools to better reflect community needs. As highlighted in this Edutopia article, 5 Tips to help teachers who struggle with technology, time and encouragement are very important but the biggest key missing is community and real world skills that teachers can be immersed in.  Test out the "take a teacher to work day" and share your results,  they  might truly amaze you.

If school is to become more than a technology consumption selling zone, educators must demand the time to make it happen.  If educators wont change they wont have to, technology will and can replace the all consuming classrooms.  Be what a computer cant!

The spring season brings orders for the next year.  Ask yourself before you purchase technology for your school: What can my students create with this?  What 21st Century skill will this help them develop?  How much time will this tool be used for consumption?  If you buy it for consumption please consider how much time our students spend OUTSIDE of school consuming through technology.