Why has it been so hard to ‘get technology in the classroom” for the last 40 years? Because it’s a round peg in a square hole. Technology is of a different world, where information is free-flowing and flat and wide, liquid networks prevail; where inquiry can always find fuel and sustenance at the moment of spark and grow with iterative input from others.
Technology will become an obvious extension of teaching when our century-plus old model of education shifts its paradigm to be about learning instead of sorting and conditioning; when schools put learning first and college hoop jumping gets retrofitted in, instead of other way around (at least until colleges get on board with using more meaningful metrics for admission).
Joel Rose does a nice job addressing this issue in his recent Atlantic article, How to Break Free of Our 19th-Century Factory-Model Education System:
”…our collective charge in K-12 innovation today should go beyond merely designing and producing new tools. Rather, our focus should primarily be to design new classroom models that take advantage of what these tools can do.”
If you replace “classroom” with “learning” in Rose’s quote, I think it’s spot on. I say that because the new model may in fact preclude the idea of the classroom in any sense of how we currently know it.
And what will these new learning models look like? Here is a quote from MacArthur Foundation Director Connie Yowell on the foundation’s shift in focus from traditional school reform to learning:
“A shift from institutions to networks. In the digital age, the fundamental operating and delivery systems are networks, not institutions such as schools, which are a node on a young person’s network of learning opportunities. People learn across institutions, so an entire learning network must be supported.
A shift from consumption of information to participatory learning. A new system of learning must be peer-based and organized around learners’ interests, enabling them to create as well as consume information.”
It’s about networks, it’s peer and inquiry driven, and here is a key point: we can’t build it and then hand it to the kids; they have to co-create it with us.
In closing, I offer a small example below of the power of this technology to network, to facilitate iteration of ideas between peers, and to catalyze inquiry. Thanks to the wonderful Kat Haber whom I met in Doha, Qatar (and thanks TEDx) and with whom I share a connection to many others around the world on this and many other subjects. Exchanges like the one below, involving multiple people in many cases, have helped me iterate my thinking on the points above in ways that could not have been possible in such a quick time without today’s technology.
Here’s hoping for faster iteration and evolution in education.