THE BLOG
10/21/2013 03:54 pm ET | Updated Dec 21, 2013

We Have What We Need: The Next Steps in Education Technology

We have SMART boards. iPads. Laptops. Cellphones. We have learning management systems like Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle. Cloud storage systems like Dropbox, and notetaking apps like Evernote. We have the ability to connect with individuals around the world and talk about everything from the basics of addition and subtraction to the complexities of international relations. We have the ability to provide free educational modules to thousands upon thousands of individuals at one time, and many educators who are already doing so.

We have what we need.

We are at a critical point in the world of education, education technology, and learning. We have had many innovations the past 15-20 years, and many shiny new "toys" (whether physical hardware, the latest software, or the newest pedagogical method) to play with. During this time, we have had many, many (did I say many?) opinions on whether these innovations are good or bad for education. Perhaps we should change the conversation.

We have what we need.

It wasn't too long ago that a pencil with a good eraser, paired with a fancy electric pencil sharpener, was the most exciting piece of technology in the classroom. And what did we do? I know what I did. I sharpened that pencil (sometimes too much) and wrote with it. And I tried to write well. And if it didn't come out so well, I erased what I wrote and tried to do better. And sometimes, as good as the eraser on that pencil may have been, it left a smudge on my clean sheet of paper. But I would wipe off that smudge as much as I could, not think about it twice, and carry on.

Fast forward to last week, when I found a somewhat-sharp pencil in my laptop bag. I'm not sure how long that pencil was in there, lodged in the crevices of the bag, long forgotten. Why did I get so excited when I saw that pencil? Perhaps because it took me back to a time when we didn't have so many options, not as many tools to work with, but we made do with what we had.

We had what we needed.

I am in no way advocating that we go back to the day where the sharpened pencil, the slide projector, and fancy 5-subject notebooks were the most exciting pieces of technology in the classroom. To do so would be a disservice to the many people who have spent countless hours trying to make the impossible...possible. But what I do think is that we are at a point where we have reached a plateau in innovative creation, and must now focus emphatically on successful integration and strategy. How do we actually use what we have? How can we create effective models of technological use that can scale up to large educational institutions and scale down to small educational spaces? Most importantly, how do we use what we have to empower those we are teaching --- today's youth -- so that they can, in turn, empower the generation after them?

This is not an easy question. It is a question that the entire educational community must strive to answer, and this includes not only the educators, administrators, and experts, but also the students themselves. The next steps in the world of education technology will be to prove that education technology is undoubtedly beneficial, and that making the impossible possible was not done for sport, but rather for progress, positive change, and to truly make the world a better place. In my heart, I believe (as many others do) that this is the potential of modern technology in education. But now let's go out there and prove it. Let's make it happen and empower today's youth so that they can empower the generation after them and beyond.

We have what we need.