Technology-Relative to our Understanding
Technology in the classroom is a relative thing – relative to our understanding as educators of the place technology has in the learning process.
We have always had technology in education. 20,000 years ago, we created history lessons on cave walls in Lascaux, France. 20,000 years in the future, we may have technology that allows us to time travel to those very caves. In the present, we are witnessing a rapid escalation of learning objects and delivery systems for those objects. Since 1978, when Steve Jobs first donated 9,000 Apple II computers to Minnesota classrooms, the education world has been enamored with classroom technology. Since that time, schools have enjoyed wave after wave of EdTech. From computer labs with Apple or PC desktop units in every school, to iPads and Chromebooks and 1:1 initiatives, school districts have raced to purchase the latest gee-wiz digital swag.
With all this swag, test scores must be going through the roof. Yes?
We all know the answer to that one. In the last twenty years, with classroom tech increasing in sophistication, test scores have remained relatively flat. Why? Because with twenty years of technology hardware and digitized courseware, we haven’t really changed the way we view teaching and learning. In fact, we are at a crossroads. Technology offers us an opportunity to change the way we educate our children, but we first need to understand the opportunity before us.
For as long as any of us can remember, what we learn in schools has been controlled by four companies. These four publishing companies have controlled ninety percent of the curriculum content found in schools. When computers entered schools, that curriculum was digitized and made available as digital learning. But the economics of digital learning have changed. Because of the influence and quality of consumer-based learning products and the influx of hundreds of superior quality curriculum offerings from smaller companies, the giant education publishing companies could not compete and collapsed under their own weight. That collapse led to the freedom by schools to select innovative courseware with interactive features and unprecedented learning potential.
In fact, in the last five years, the vast majority of schools have completely remade their learning content, and now more that 88 percent of districts report a 1:1 initiative in some or all their schools. So the stage is set. Schools have the requisite number of digital devices and the door is open to quality digital content. It’s now time to change our understanding of the role of technology in the classroom.
Technology is a tool. The real change comes from how we use that tool. When we discovered the cave paintings in France in 1940, we found over 2,000 separate figurines. Enough learning objects to provide a personalized experience for every learner in the ancient Lascaux, France school district. Just like in the caves of France, we have enough tech to provide a personalized learning experience for every student in America. The real opportunity will come from the students themselves. Over the next five years, we’ll see a transformation in our classrooms. Student directed learning, using our digital assets, will catalyze learning. Without this transformation, our amazing technology would have little effect. True personalized learning, directed by the learner, will be education’s next big thing.