Thursday, March 17, 2011

In 2011, Technology is global, ubiquitous, social and inexpensive

Yes, we can put a powerful computer in every child's hands for learning. See this Carpe Diem post about the great deflation in computer prices:

The question is whether the education SYSTEM, namely the ministry, school jurisdictions, schools, leaders, teachers, parents, community stakeholders, business partners, have the appetite to do so.  When considering "costs", the education system has to take a sharp look at the cost of NOT investing in the creation of twenty-first century learning environments for EVERY child in this province. From research we know that the greatest gains in learning with technology are found in schools where the teaching changes to reflect inquiry and knowledge building, the assessment focuses on the improvement of ideas and outcomes, and the technology is in hands of every teacher and student. 

As my colleague, Therese Laferriere, recently argued (EduTech Summit) - connectivity is another issue that school systems have to address.  We need to find solutions for increasing connectivity and bandwidth in schools, and also knocking down the firewalls between teachers, students and the online knowledge base.


ideasman said...

Yes we can put a computer into every child's hands, however, I am unsure whether the question is, "whether the education SYSTEM, namely the ministry, school jurisdictions, schools, leaders, teachers, parents, community stakeholders, business partners, have the appetite to do so." It might be that we actually SHOULD NOT put a computer into everybody's hands. - Because it might be that to have everyone on their own computer is to isolate each student from one another.- In which case, the question might better be stated as, how can we create the best learning environment within our schools? I've used technology in the classroom for decades and I am unsure whether it engages the student in ways that promote the skills and attributes our SYSTEM wishes the student to have. I am also unsure that computers are developmentally appropriate for all children. Jane Healy doesn't think so, and I tend to agree with her, as I have found her observations written in her book, "Failure To Connect," are very similar to my observations when viewing computers being in the classroom.
My experience tells me that most children can master a computer program within two years. And I mean master it. So, I don't feel the 21st century learner is in any great need to have a computer in their lap upon arrival in kindergarten. - It isn't like they won't be using them at home.- No I think that really we need more teachers and fewer students in each classroom to begin to teach the skills the 21st Century Learner really needs.
I was asked to give a workshop at the Toronto Media School, to a classroom of grade 12 media students. They knew how to use the machines very well. But, in asking them about their projects, I became keenly aware that they didn't have anything to say! They weren't telling authentic stories, or even doing original work, they were simply stuck with being technicians. It seems that somewhere along the line their own ideas had been underdeveloped. Given the choice between teaching students to be technicians or teaching them to communicate their stories and reflect upon their lives and articulate their ideas, I would choose the later. But of course this kind of education is very expensive. I would prefer to exclude technology from schools and put full resources into the human experience largely because I trust the students will find away to gain technological understanding if they have critical thinking abilities and a passion for their own ideas.
I've always found Humans to be the best teachers, while technology often offers a sub-standard learning experience, which is ironically often perceived of as superior. I recognize the computer can teach, and I think DOES teach dissatisfaction with reality. It makes us impatient with real time and it changes how we search for and value information, and value human experience. Might it not be better if we stopped all technology in schools, threw away half the curriculum and began to teach towards reaching a higher level of executive skills? This is of course akin to heresy, however, as the ubiquitousness of the technology will demand each student to learn how to function with technology outside of the school, we might consider that the school does not need, nor perhaps should "teach" with or about technology. I would much prefer we taught more drama, more music, more health, more collaboratively, more beauty, more outdoor education, than bring in more computers or more internet. In the future it is only the poor who will be shackled to the computer, the rich will have teachers.

GirlProf said...

ideasman: Thank you for taking the time to prepare this thoughtful comment. I agree that all learners need and deserve engaged teachers in order to build knowledge, improve their ideas and connect and collaborate using the media and technology environments that are a part of their culture.

In "Hands On Vs. Hands Up", Friesen and I argue that, "If we really want our children to face the challenges of the future with confidence and skill, we must teach them not only that they can acquire current knowledge, but also that they can help shape what their society comes to accept as knowledge. Participatory digital technologies and new social media landscapes, combined with engaged teaching and designs for learning, offer new opportunities for knowledge building and interconnected relationships."

It takes an engaged teacher, who designs meaningful and challenging work for students, and ongoing authentic assessment, in order to leverage the benefits of technology. We need to be creative about ways and means to get the technology into the hands of teachers and students, as well as invest in continuous professional learning for our teachers so that we can achieve the types of learning environments that are called for right now, today, in every classroom.