This is a response to Ms. Hammond’s most recent post, entitled “Who is leading the change?”.
Reading Ms. Hammond’s post raises an interesting issue. Even in our 21st century learning program (also written about here), some of our students, the “digital natives” who are highly engaged in using technology in other aspects of their life, will still ask their teachers if they can do school work with paper and book in the traditional way. Why do students who enthusiastically dive into the coolest devices and social networking experiences shy away from using that technology at school?
It may be that students see their teachers embracing the previous generation of technology – television, film – but being awkward and afraid of new technology – mobile devices and user generated content. Teachers often direct students to shut off mobile technology so that they are not distracted by texting or internet. User generated content may not fit in the classroom because it is seen as playful and divergent. Classroom work may be contrasted as rigorous and focused on a correct answer. The two don’t appear to be compatible, as if the playground is being turned into a graded assignment. But we can help students a recognize that the devices they carry in their pockets are more than just a playground; they are key features of their present world that affect them profoundly.
The trap for those of us who are “digital immigrants” is to be either stuck in fear and nostalgia, or to be overly optimistic about the power of technology. If we want to be effective we need to find a middle way where we are open about the effects of technology on us as well as learning to use it to our advantage. As adults we recognize that the world is changing, and we need to take our wisdom with us.
Who is leading the change? Neither we nor our students are in control of the change happening in the world around us. But it is the educators who lead what happens in schools. Mobile devices and user generated content represent a huge opportunity to increase the precision and frequency of formative feedback on student performance, to develop critical thinking using real world, real time examples, and to increase student and teacher engagement in learning. We can open the door, and invite the present in on educational terms, or hold it closed, and maintain a world in school that is increasingly disconnected from the wider world our students (and we ourselves) live in.