Why? An Analogy for Tech in Education

It would be an understatement to say that I have been obsessing about technology lately.  While that has been true in general for the last few years, it has been more so since I left #edcampss.

My friend and PLN collaborator Greg Kulowiec  ( http://www.kulowiectech.blogspot.com/ ) posed the question “Why are we trying to go 1:1 in the classroom?” We discussed it and the moment passed but I kept coming back to the question.  Now it has been about 3 weeks and I have spent most of my in between moments refining my answer to this question.  Ironically, earlier this week I was asked to talk to the school board about exactly this issue. (I know, right?!) The twitterverse and leading educational scholars have many opinions. Here is what I have arrived at in the form of analogy.

Education in the past: We the teachers hand the students the apple of knowledge.  They consume it.

Education in the future: We the teachers turn the students loose in the orchard and say fill up your bushel basket with the best apples. Then we let them use those apples to make something unique.

The devices that we choose will be the portal through which our students will access the info that they must be able to evaluate, synthesize, refute and organize.  They must leave school prepared to make meaning from a sea of facts. Using these devices in the classroom is the portal through which they will access the the raw material that they will process.

But why should we issue each student a device? Why not just have these devices available during the school day? For me this answer is simple.  Not every child has the same access or experience with technology. Some of our students go home to a world with out technology.  This creates a learning gap.  Just providing devices at school prevents some students from using these skills in daily life and expanding upon them.  It also limits learning to the school building.  Any goods teacher wants learning to happen outside of the classroom and wants students to build upon what has been learned. They can’t do this in the future without the proper tools.

I am not ignorant of the related problems a 1:1 model brings with it.  I understand that there are cost concerns yet, I feel strongly that this model of learning is a better reflection of how our students will learn in the future.

It is frustrating to live in a world that is changing so fast. Both as a father and a teacher I am worried about whether I am supplying the necessary skills to survive in a future that Is hard to define. At the same time it is exciting to be part of defining what the true value of this devices can be.  I am hopeful that some of the issues that have bothered me for 18 years as a teacher might be addressed through technology. I hold no hope however that  an I-pad is a panacea.  I have grown weary of those who aren’t aware of their rose colored glasses when they talk about technology.

I will end this with a short video about the future of learning that has been around for a while.  I stumbled upon it again recently while I was reading yet another teachers explanation of why we should embrace a 1:1 model.  I gets me thinking.

I welcome your thoughts, opinions and comments as they have been so helpful in forming my opinions thus far.

One thought on “Why? An Analogy for Tech in Education

  1. Shawn,

    Great post and one I’ve thought much about, too, as I was in the room for about five minutes when Greg posed this. This I remember from EdCampSS. 🙂 Thanks for pointing out this video, too. I forgot about this and it’s actually timely for our new unit in 21C global studies.

    Ironically, we just started a new unit this week based on Howard Rhiengold’s NetSmart: How to Thrive Online. This week, we focused precisely on beginning to learn how to harness the power of the “apple of the future.” Today’s activity http://21cglobal.blogspot.com/2012/04/netsmart-and-concept-mapping.html So, I couldn’t agree more with your analogy. For me, though, and surely many others, we have to “turn them loose in the orchard” in an educated, informed way… Not to forge their path, but to help them learn to manage the seemingly endless array of digital information that is so easy to get lost in if not taught to navigate mindfully. This lesson we just did focuses on the first two of Rheingold’s “new literacies” – “infotention” and “crap detection”.

    It’s a challenge to shift to this way of thinking and learning, but so very worth the struggle. Love this analogy. Stealing it. 🙂


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