I'm a tech guy, as you have probably noticed, and as a tech guy I often find myself spending a lot of time talking about all sorts of great technologies, like social media and Web 2.0 tools, the latest hardware and gadgets, and how to use them to build online communities and develop collaborative practices in the education space. I attend and participate in a number of conferences and webinars on a regular basis, both as a presenter and attendee, and serve on a number of panels and implementation teams, all of which I believe to be valuable. But lately I have been struck by the fact that, even though everyone is gathering together to talk about education, we really aren't talking much about education. We're talking mostly about tools. Think about the last conference or webinar you attended - how much of the conversation revolved around tools and how to use them? I would bet the vast majority. While the geek in me really enjoys learning about what the hot new tool is and how I might make it work, I think as a whole we've jumped the shark on ed tech. Because when we think about ourselves as educators, what we do is not really about tools, is it? It's about kids. It's about helping kids to learn and grow, and to prepare them for the world they are about to enter.
Yet many of us seem to believe that if we can just get the right set of tools into the classroom we can solve all of education's problems. So we take out our whiteboards and replace them with super-whiteboards, and we swap out our overhead projectors for document cameras, and we sprinkle in some classroom responders, just for good measure. We do all this because we genuinely believe that it will make all the difference in the world, mostly because somebody told us that the reason kids aren't learning in the 21st century is because we aren't interesting enough. And I think that's wrong. I don't think that's right at all.
I think the problem that we're having is not that we haven't figured out the right set of tools, I think it's that we're not focusing on the right things. We're not taking a look at technology and it's role in the future of education and asking the right questions.
I was following along with a discussion panel this year at NECC (now ISTE) on social networking in education (which is a topic I often speak about) and panelist David Jakes posited what I believe is the right question. And it didn't have anything to do with social networking or web 2.0 or tools or technology. It was simply this: “What does it mean to be well educated in the 21st century?” I think that is the question we really need to start asking.
To answer that question, I believe we need to take a step back and look at how the world has changed all around us – step back and look at the world our kids are entering and consider what they will face when they get there. We need to look again at their needs, their motivations, and their influences and discover what drives them to learn and grow. Only when we do that, can we rightly challenge the assumptions we have used to build our education systems and consider what school in the 21st century should look like.
More to follow in subsequent posts...
Posted by Jim Klein |