Technology isn’t going to become any less omnipresent in our lives; with the rate at which technology advances, we actually have no idea what type of world our current students will enter when they are ready to pursue careers and make big decisions. So how on earth do we prepare them for that? How can we even begin to teach students about technology or prepare teachers to teach technology when we don’t know what technology will look like even a few years from now?
Recently, I’ve been fortunate to be able to engage in lots of great conversations with other professors, classroom teachers, and policy makers around educational technology, in an attempt to answer these questions. A couple of months ago, I was invited to participate in a summit on innovation in educational technology in teacher preparation. There, I made connections and began conversations with other innovators and experts at all levels from k-16 and beyond. Those conversations have continued at a distance since then, up through this week. On Monday, I led a Twitter chat for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology, centered around the active use of technology in teacher preparation. Yesterday I had an amazing conversation on the TeacherCast podcast about educational technology, social media, and a host of other related topics. These conversations are absolutely critical to improving both the teaching practice and teacher preparation programs. It’s no secret that, while we do have plenty of rockstar teachers and professors out there using technology in active and transformative ways, we also have a lot of schools, teachers, and professors still approaching technology from an old-school mentality (pun very intended).
I want to share with you some of the key points that emerged, repeatedly, from these conversations.
Teaching and learning with technology should be a tool to enhance the active engagement of students. Tech certainly doesn’t have to be integrated into every lesson, but there are many ways in which tech can expand the classroom outside of the 4 brick and mortar walls, can provide more interactive and relevant learning experiences, and can teach students the valuable technology skills that they are most likely to need in the future.
But wait, didn’t I just say we don’t know what technology will look like even a few years from now? I sure did. So that’s why technology needs to look less like:
- Teaching students to type on a keyboard.
- Teaching students to use PowerPoint, Word, and Excel.
- Having students use a sanitized and heavily blocked version of the Internet.
And more like:
- Exposing students to many different types of technology.
- Modeling how to learn a new technology by networking, searching, and transferring knowledge.
- Teaching students good judgment for who to interact with online and how much and what types of information to share.
- Teaching students about the various things that contribute to their digital identity.
The difference here is that one approach teaches specific technologies, while the other teaches skills that will (probably) transfer to any type of technology that is developed. We must teach students and preservice teachers how to learn about technology and how to have good judgment around technology.
Another major point that I want to emphasize after having had these conversations this week, is that we in the field of education need to have these active conversations regularly, and we need to be talking across disciplines and across institutions and grade levels. Professors need to be engaged in conversations with classroom teachers who are actually implementing this transformative, active technology. Classroom teachers need to be modeling for and supporting each other in their implementation of active, transformative tech. We need to all listen to k-12 students; we need to know how they are using the technology, what they would like to use the technology for, and how they imagine the technology growing.
I want to make the final point that we have passed the point at which implementing technology in every subject area is optional. The Common Core standards require technology implementation and instruction. The U.S. Department of Education expects that schools implement and instruct in transformative, active use of technology. Living and working in the modern United States practically requires the use of technology. Teachers and professors who avoid teaching with technology are doing a disservice to k-12 students and preservice teachers; we can no more decide to avoid teaching with technology than we can decide not to teach kids math or language arts.
The future is here. We must be prepared to teach in and for the future.