The Fear and Mis-Understanding of Change

The third installment in our tour of traps that can bar the road to digital education success
LeiLani Cauthen

It’s like the Wild West out there. There’s nothing like having countless executives from across the U.S. asking for solutions to virtually the same issue, no matter which city or district they represent. We have a problem in the US right now. Maybe other countries too, but in the US we have an entrepreneurial spirit that is driving education technology advances at fantastic speed. That also means thousands upon thousands of companies, big and small, jumping on the band-wagon. Education is much like the “wild west” of companies battling for attention. Hopefully my experience out there in the fray, can help lend a hand of understanding. No one is alone. It will be “wild” but it can also be awesome for students, and for teachers.

Trap # 3—Lack of Understanding and Fear

Cost (trap #1 from two weeks ago) is not the only reason the nascent industry of digital courseware has not saturated the landscape. Instead, most teachers use free digital learning objects because they believe they have to “replace what was there before,” the paper resources. Their thinking pattern is around “flat text” and so when they go to seek new resources they seek a digitization of the way things were. They pretty much have to do this because:

A. They do not know how to evaluate the new types of digital courseware, and

B. Are usually harboring the secret opinion that the fully-loaded game-based, intelligent-learning-engine immersive-environment digital courseware will replace them.

Lack of the ability to discern what is going on inside digital curriculum, some of which manages to teach math without any words is truly like stumbling into an alien world. How do you compare that to old math flash cards and worksheets? You can’t.

The Learning Counsel started our “71 Characteristics of Digital Curriculum” Special Report work precisely to address this, and created a set of committees in Knowstory to help with the evaluation of the new digital world.

Download the Special Report: 71 Characteristics of Digital Curriculum.

The fear of being replaced, well, that’s patently silly. The Learning Counsel’s observational research is indicating that we will need more teachers as we go digital, not less. Who’s going to be doing all the evaluating of software? And to get to the promised land of individualized learning, every teacher will have to use the analytics embedded in the software and manipulate the various adjustments for each child.

Teachers will be facilitators, coaches and mentors, helping each child to learn and think for themselves. They will have to be watching how the child is doing inside the software so that they can make sure they don’t lose interest and push them up to the next “level.” These are young humans, and since we’ve already established there is a huge variety of intellects amongst them, the adjustments and customizations are going to be nearly infinite.

True individualization, after all, is the competitive edge America wants to employ to stay ahead economically. We will invest in it, that’s a promise. Corporate America’s lush professional development scene and the military’s simulators are the precedent cases in point.

A way to avoid misunderstanding and fear is to lead by having people actually look. Just open Apps and Courseware and check them out. At least watch the demo videos. Lots of them. Don’t let people think about it only—that’s a disastrously misleading way to consider digital curriculum because you really can’t know about it until you look and experience it.

Alright, now just for a moment, let’s go back to the fact that the things being mostly used now, and mostly coming free, are flat and uninteresting and normally quickly out of date. With that fact we expose another problem, perhaps the most insidious of all that has been unlooked for in the digital transition and that is the next factor we’ll talk about, in my next week’s installment.

LeiLani is well versed in the digital content universe, software development, the adoption process, school coverage models, and helping define this century’s real change to teaching and learning. She is the author of the newly released book, The Consumerization of Learning.

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