I am finding myself contemplating the future of education and wondering where it’s going. I know where I think it should be headed, where I’d like it to be going…yet, somehow I don’t know if it will get there.
Everything I’ve been reading for this class has emphasized how important it is to be moving forward, to be putting energy and effort into understanding this new digital age and supporting our students in it. Yet the same authors are reminding us that education is the slowest institution to change and educators are reluctant to take risks and try new, modern ideas. This is what worries me. We are no longer talking about education ‘integrating’ technology, we are talking about a complete and total paradigm shift. Can we do it? I hope so…I think we have to at least try.
When I was reading Marc Prensky’s “Adapt and Adopt: Shaping Tech for the Classroom,” I was struck by his call to include the students. It is something that I believe is necessary for education to move forward. But this is the paradigm shift. As educators we are no longer the ones with all the answers, we must look to our students to be teachers too. This is a scary thought for many! Marc puts it this way:
“First, consult the students. They are far ahead of their educators in terms of taking advantage of digital technology and using it to their advantage. We cannot, no matter how hard we try or how smart we are (or think we are), invent the future education of our children for them. The only way to move forward effectively is to combine what they know about technology with what we know and require about education. Sadly, in most cases, no one asks for their opinion. I go to conference after conference on school technology, and nary a student is in sight.”
This was something I encountered at the Learning 2.0 Conference in Shanghai last September. I participated in an ‘unconference’ session with some high school students. These were students who were brought in to support the conference participants tech wise. On the spur of the moment (which is the whole idea of ‘unconference’ sessions), some of the students were asked to participate in a round table discussion about their thoughts on technology and learning. It was by far one of the most interesting sessions I attended. The kids were incredibly uncomfortable at the outset (we sat in a circle with about 20 or so educators looking at the students). Many people kept asking the kids questions like “what do you want your learning to look like?” and “how would you like to see technology used in your education?” These poor kids looked like deer caught in the headlights! Of course they struggled with answering the questions like those (who wouldn’t really?). However, when asked how they would like to complete assignments, they did have answers. They continually went back to the idea of having options and choices about their assignments. It showed that they preferred to have some level of control or investment in how they presented their work. They also wanted to learn about ‘interesting things’ and not something that even they could tell the teacher was just lecturing on because she/he had to. My favorite part of the entire discussion was when one teacher in the group asked the student to give some examples of how they’d like to be assessed on content they had been learning. The student replied “Well, I’d like to sometimes just have a chat with the teacher about what I’ve learned.” The teacher who posed the question responded with “Oh, like on MSN or something?” To which the student looked confused for a moment, then his face cleared and he smiled and said “Oh, no, I mean like a chat…you know, sitting down and talking to each other?!” It was a perfect example of how sometimes we over think things!
The bottom line is that we have to adapt and adopt. There is no way we can provide our students with what they need unless we do. Marc Prensky put it perfectly:
“A big effort? Absolutely. But our kids deserve no less.”