Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is school out forever? Teachers, students, and the inevitable now of education

Coming soon to an educational institution near you: the innovation revolution*

The school PAC had a presentation on Smart Boards last month. I couldn’t make the meeting but I was certainly curious – my American tweeps have been tweet tweet tweeting about them for almost two years now. I hear they are useful, *engaging*, and de rigeur in this modern age. I’ve never seen one except on Youtube.

There are times I feel the outside world might be whipping circles around our cosy lil’ Victorian town. Everyone else seems tech-light years ahead of our education system. Geez, all last year, our teachers weren’t even filling out report cards.

My #edtech twitter feed freaks me out: pinterest, iBooks, cramberry, audiopuzzler, wibbitz, edmodo, mixbooks, juno, voki, dvolver, gosoapbox, zooburst – no, it’s not a Clingon language- edtech tool choices multiply by the minute.  And you thought Facebook took up too much of your time.

BYOD, BYOT –bring your own device, bring your own tech – these are the #hashtags of the edtech revolution.  This call to arms naturally invites push back.

The push and the push back are usually summed up thus:

PUSH: Students are using technology already and using it better than us teachers; let’s learn it and implement it fast to enhance the educational experience.

The PUSH BACK: Students are already using technology too much and it’s distracting and detracting from the essential information; let’s explore it cautiously and limit it to very specific use.
And if that weren’t enough to put a knot in your pedagogical knickers, students are saying things like this:

While not exactly yearning for a “flipped classroom” – another 21st century learning innovation – this sentiment hints at the perceived need for what Juliette LaMontagne calls “models in the margins [that have] effectively disrupted the status quo”  - models that also have educators questioning their own purpose and paradigm shifts that will almost certainly include technology.

But there is a disconnect between the perception and reality of what is actually occurring in a technology-enhanced classroom just as there is a disconnect between what is #edtech trending on Twitter and what is really happening in the majority of educational institutions around the world.  And as we reach what might be, paradoxically, a critical mass in innovation, there is time for REFLECTION:

As I pull out some hairs and grow a few grey ones over how to engage this new crop of learners, all my questions and fears rise to the surface:  How much of the old can we keep? How much of the new has value?  Why does this new paradigm of education feel like shifting sands?  If my students are not even reading but only taking pictures of my boardwork, what is retained in their own memories? Does the lack of remembering mean not learning? And if not retaining and not remembering is part of the new learning, then there remains this inescapable question: what is knowledge?

And if it comes down to “what is knowledge?”, I’m screwed.

*will not be tweeted because it has already happened

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