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My friend, John Carver, a prominent education leader in Iowa, Skyped me the other day just to kick around some ideas in education that he was considering. John and I often have discussions about education. Of course my favorite thing about our discussions is that John often likes what I have to say. As always, things came around to the role of technology in education. John has been a leader in the 1:1 laptop movement in Iowa schools.
During the course of our discussion we both agreed that there is a need to clarify and agree on quite a few of the things that many of us take for granted. These are things that we all assume are commonly understood in education. The most obvious being an agreement on what the goal of education is. It has been my experience in my observations that if you ask 50 educators, “what is the goal of education?”, there will be as many as 49 different answers. Of course point of view has a great deal to do with one’s definition. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents would each approach it from their own perspective, but that would be true of anything.
There is no subject however, that this is more obviously less definable than when we attempt to define technology. Ironically, many believe that the definition is universally agreed upon. I often argue that when it comes to using technology that there is not a generation gap, but a learning gap. I do believe that. The idea of what anyone considers technology however, is very different depending on a person’s age. This may be a reason for a slow adoption of technology as a tool for learning. I have written about this before, inspired by a Sir Ken Robinson video. The idea being that, what we consider to be technology, is totally dependent on when it was introduced into our lives.
There is a book and a movie that immediately come to mind that underscore this: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; and Back to The Future. In both stories the main characters introduced tools from their culture that were no longer considered technology, to a culture unfamiliar with them, and therefore astounded at their existence as well as their capabilities. That is a concept that we easily understand, as long as the future is brought back into the past. It gets tricky trying to apply the same idea from the present moving forward.
Let us consider the automobile. When it comes to travel today, beyond using our feet, the automobile is probably our transportation of choice. Rarely do we refer to it or even think about the car as technology, because it has always been with us. We were born after that technology was invented, so it has become a tool of our everyday life. We don’t research its worth or try to decide whether people should use it or not. It is here to stay and evolve without another thought other than how to make it better or cheaper. The same is probably true of TV’s and Phones. We have them. We use them. We always expect that they will be with us in some form.
Now let’s address computers. Much of our adult population can readily remember when this technology was introduced. They have a memory of the first PC’s and Mac’s. They can track memories of rotary phones, princess phones, car phones, and mobile phones. These were all invented within their lifetime. Most adults knew where they were when “Al Gore invented the Internets”. This, to them, is technology. They reserve the right to use it, or not, since they know the benefits of what came before. Not too many are holding on to rotary phones, but I have not yet given up my land line (My Choice).This attitude accounts for the experience of many, many educators today. They grew up and learned without technology. It was invented in their lifetime so they have a choice to use it or stay with the tried and true of days gone by.
Now let’s look at the student perspective. There isn’t one kid today in our modern culture that doesn’t have access to a computer. Most kids today live with cellphones, if not Smartphones specifically. If you don’t know it already, a smartphone is simply a complex computer with phone capabilities.What many adults don’t get is that computers and smartphones are not considered technology by kids. They are not in awe of the capabilities of these tools. They expect it. It is part of their world. Educators should not be so arrogant as to think they have the ability to decide whether or not kids can use these tools for learning. The kids do it with, or without adult permission. Any educator has the right to choose to live in a cave, however, they do not have the right to drag their students in there with them.
As long as these technologies exist and continue to move forward, we as educators have an obligation to teach responsible and thoughtful use of these tools. We as educators have a responsibility to be relevant in what and how we teach. I do not know if kids’ brains are wired differently as a result of all that is new in technology. I do know that what astounds me with these tools, is thought to be expected by students. They sleep with their Smartphones. Just ask them. Their perspective to this technology is the perspective we must deal with, and not our own. Our perspective becomes more irrelevant each day.
I love this video. If you have any doubts of what I have just said, watch this video. This is how a one year old approaches something that we all take for granted, a magazine. The child’s perspective however, is one that assumes the very technology that many adults have yet to accept. Learn from this small, but tech-savvy, one-year-old. Click here to view the video.
I now will send this post to my friend, John Carver to use any way he sees fit. I welcome you to do the same. Of course your comments are welcomed.