I love technology, and I love what it can do for education. I love the fact that our kids can debate the American Revolution with students in England. I love that our kids can create the next movie with students across the country. I love that our kids can challenge other student-created robots with children in China. All of these examples are real experiences already in progress with students using technology. They are real experiences that push our students to enhance their creativity, their problem solving skills, their collaboration and their digital literacy. This is what technology needs to be doing for our students. It should be giving them experiences and insights that they would normally not be able to accomplish without the use of technology.
I want to repeat that:
Technology should be used to give students an experience or insight that they would otherwise not be able to accomplish without the use of technology.
As I present at many national conferences, sit on many educational technology forums and judge for many educational technology award groups, I am very frustrated by what I am seeing in terms of our use of EdTech. Let's use the above thought as a litmus test for some of our current EdTech trends.
The Interactive White Board
Great piece of technology if used with students to physically manipulate animations on the board so the students can use kinesthetic and visual learning in a 21st century manner.
Interactive White Boards can also be the world's most expensive chalk board or overhead projector. If a teacher is using the interactive white board to have the students move their name from absent to present, or from school lunch to a home lunch, then you have just purchased a great, bright, shiny chalkboard, free of dust.
The 1:1 Device
Obviously, the 1:1 initiative is an inevitable necessity. Schools will need to go to 1:1 just to keep their text books current. With the mounds of data, discoveries and new technologies our society is developing, a text book could be obsolete before it even gets into the students' hands. The beauty of 1:1 is that technology is in the hands of our students all the time. I couldn't write all of the possibilities a student can experience by having a computer in their hands at school. Just go and check out any physics-based game, or a virtual world, or even research a rare topic and you will feel the possibilities.
However, 1:1 has also become, in many areas, nothing but a text book with inherent worksheets. The teachers love to not have to Xerox, and the schools love to not have to purchase consumable workbooks. The grade gets dropped right into the teacher's grade book, and that is, again, a great tool. But does it really benefit the student? The 1:1 device becomes the text book and its accompanying materials. Without using the device to share something or do something new and exciting, you just bought some very expensive rechargeable text books.
Study Island and Other Individualized Programs
These self-driven programs have become my biggest pet peeve. There is a place for some of this type of instruction -- a very limited place for a very short amount of time... But to hear about entire classes of students on Study Island for 40 minutes a day? There is a reason it is not called Study Community or Study Town. Students do not need to be abandoned on an island with their education being left up to them -- alone.
I can see the use of these stand-alone educational programs for small group instruction in short time intervals. I can see these programs being used for after-school programs, and maybe even home-bound instruction. But to use Study Island as a curriculum, in my opinion, is a way of opting out of teaching. If teachers do not want to be replaced by technology, then they need to stop being okay with students being dropped onto an "island" to fend for themselves.
Technology is my passion, and I love the possibilities it provides for the future of education and for our students. We just need to be" change agents" when it comes to new technologies. We need to look at what it can do for us that we cannot already do in some other way. We need to look at technology and say to ourselves: "How is this going to change the way I present this information to my students?" You will need to ask yourself if the technology you are implementing gives your students a new way of learning the material.
There is this fabulous quote on the internet that every educator should take to heart.
"Technology won't replace teachers... But teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who do not."
I would add to that quote that the teachers who use technology to give students a new and exciting learning experience will be the ones who become our best hope for the future of our children's education.