Schools are beginning to get it.

I’ve noticed more change in education in the past two years, than over the preceding two decades, especially regarding teachers’ enthusiasm for using technology. Hopefully that’s a harbinger of things to come. Maybe we’re finally beginning to get it.

The operative word in that sentence is ‘beginning’.

The extent of technological change that has taken place in the last two decades is self evident. What is less obvious, but perhaps more profound, is the the social change that has come with the technological change.

I think schools have responded to (or at least acknowledged) the technological change. I mean, in every school I visit I see computers, tablets, interactive whiteboards, AppleTVs, 3D printers and a range of other gizmos. But I don’t think we have responded to, nor for the most part, even acknowledged many of the social changes that have ridden in on technology’s coat-tails.

Most of our mental models about the nature, timing, location, responsibilities, format and assessment of education have really not changed much and what we need now is not so much a technological evolution but a pedagogical one. Moving forward; really moving forward will not just be about keeping up to date with technology, but about adjusting our mental models so that schools remain (or at this stage of the game – again become) socially relevant.

4 thoughts on “Schools are beginning to get it.

  1. Great insight and interesting comment about the last two years compared to the last couple of decades. As a young and inexperienced educator I was not aware that this was the case. It is definitely exciting to see teaching practices evolve alongside the technology. A good example of this is with backchanneling. An innovative and effective practice that was made possible by 1:1/BYOD learning environments, and apps like TodaysMeet.

    Unfortunately there are not a lot of apps/tools out there that designed to encourage teachers to redefine their methods or evolve teaching practices. Developers deliberately design them this way. Tech that substitutes an existing practice means that the tool is easy for teachers to pick up and use. The user understands the context in which it should work and what to expect, all they have to do is learn the new user interface. I think we will see more innovative tech tools develop as young edtech startups mature (receive more funding). For example, ClassDojo are starting to do very innovate things when it comes to communication with parents.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments Justin. I agree with what you said about tools designed to replicate the old way of doing things using digital tools. Some people would say that’s good because such tools/apps ease teachers into technology without being too threatening (That’s the point of the SAMR model, right?). But I think in some ways these things do more harm than good – because they give us a false sense of being progressive (because we are using new tools and apps) but they don’t disrupt our pedagogy – or even force us to question it. And I think that is what is really needed.

      Interactive Whiteboards are the best example of that. Expensive new shiny high-tech piece of equipment that can let a teacher feel that s/he is up to date with technology – but s/he doesn’t have to even question the pedagogical assumptions of the classroom. It could be that installing an IWB worse than leaving blackboards in the room – because at least if there was nothing but a chalkboard, the teacher couldn’t help but be aware that s/he is still teaching like teachers did last century. But give her an IWB and she can tell herself she is up to date – all the while still teaching like teachers did last century.

  2. I love the ‘call out’ to schools and I so agree with you, while schools in the majority have kept pace with technology in terms of hardware and appliances, the actual approaches to teaching and learning, remain very much traditional.

    It has been seen and proven, countless times that ‘active learning’ including information gathering, processing and presenting, provides immense opportunities to students to learn numerous skills, far beyond those from a ‘teacher provides all information’ scenario. The very fact that technology is able to provide most if not all the answers is perhaps something that challenges most teachers in the perception of their own roles.

    The move from ‘provider of information’ to ‘facilitator of information gathering’ is a great chasm that is still difficult to bridge. However, in both our work and personal experience, it is only a small number of teachers who are able to trust and willing to make that ‘leap of faith’ and yet the ones who are able to do so, find their own work becoming so very much more rewarding.

    I wonder if a great barrier to overcoming this divide is in the perception that formal assessments counts for so much in education, and the perceived lack of time, limits teachers in their ability to experiment and ‘play’ with different ideas of learning.

    It does seem very much that official results and comparison tables (such as PISA) greatly influences teachers in how they view both their ability to convey as much information in limited time frames, and ensuring that the children live up to assessment expectations.

    I have no real solutions to offer other than the proposal that formal assessments if less weighted would provide more ‘freedom’ in learning. The question is always – how do we get there?

    • I see what you mean – because as long as standardised tests are still an important ticket to further education, we have to prepare our kids for those tests out of fairness to those individual kids – but that puts the brakes on (certain kinds) of innovation. So we are left with a system in which we test for skills that are only really useful on the test. The types of skills and aptitudes that will actually make students successful in later life (after they’ve run the education gauntlet) are very difficult to measure on a standardised test.

      The skills that we can test (in an exam) aren’t worth testing, but the skills that are worth testing are hard to test. Quite the conundrum.

      Thanks for your input Li-ling.

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