*** I need to start this blog off by saying that over the past three years I have talked with over 200 businesses, organizations, and community members and asked them "What do students need to learn in order to be successful in the real world?" The most common answer (by far):
They need to know how to use technology. It is everywhere & it isn't going anywhere.
I will discuss the other most common responses in a future post, but this is my story:
Technology in Education: Distraction or Engagement Tool?
I recently had the opportunity to serve on a panel at a state university regarding the use of technology in education. I must admit that I felt as if I had transported via a time machine to the year 1991.
The topic of the discussion was:
Is technology a distraction in education, an enagement tool, or something else.
I thought the topic was strange and that we would all get there, agree it was an engagement tool, and leave. Not so fast. I was dead wrong.
On the panel, I represented K-12 educators. The panel consisted of a K-12 technology coordinator for a district, professors, and college students. The audience was composed of mainly employees of the university.
The first person to speak was the director of technology for the local school district. He set the stage by explaining what the K-12 schools were doing with regards to technology. He discussed implementation of 1-1 initiatives, infrastructure, funding, and the professional development required. As he spoke, I noticed many people in the audience with confused looks as they shifted around in their seats. They asked several questions, all which seemed to be pessimistic. The director of technology did a great job answering every question.
Next there were three university professors who spoke. They had interviewed some of their colleagues and shared their responses as well. They shared the perspective of many professors, most who thought that technology was a distraction to education. The explained that it caused students to be disengaged, to use their cell phones during class, and to detract from what they were being taught (lectured to about).
One professors who supported technology shared some of examples of how some were using it in class. There were only two examples given and they were:
* Recording students' speeches via a smart phone so they could email it to the students.
* Using clickers to answer questions posted in front of the class.
I give this person credit for using technology. This is more progressive than anyone else that shared. I could not help but think that these examples seem as if they would have been considered new and innovative in about 1991.
I am not saying that all university professors are against technology. In fact, I know some that are very knowledgeable and wonderful at implementing technology in education. I do believe, though, that they are in the minority at universities. I do believe that they are considered the outsiders who are disrupting the status quo. I also understand that because one university thinks this way, that it means all universities think this way. In my interactions with people from many universities, this philosophy seems quite common.
The fact that many universities have a high percentage of professors who do not understand the power of technology to enhance education and believe it is a distraction is unacceptable.
At the K-12 level, I hear so many teachers, administrators, schools, and districts keep saying we need to get out students "COLLEGE & CAREER READY". I do not like this statement. I care too much about the students and feel that we should get them ready for life. There is more to life than a career. Many of our students will be parents, spouses, friends, self-advocates, etc... Regardless, what does "COLLEGE & CAREER READY" even mean? They seem to be polar opposites. The real world of careers has spoken and said that students should understand technology. The universities feel that it is a distraction to implement technology. If so, what is the point of college? I feel bad for all of the K-12 students who can now create documentaries, design websites, connect via social media, design apps, use Google Documents, but are forced by an outdated model that keeps telling students they have to go to college. I feel bad that many of these students will take a step back in time and visit an outdated educational institution that deems them lazy for being disengaged and a world full of careers that consides them unprepared for the work force.
It isn't their fault.
Soon the "real world" will recognize that access to great learning opportunities like Lynda.com, Coursera, Udemy, EdX, Sophia, Udacity, and many others has created a world of:
WHAT CAN YOU DO and not WHAT DEGREE DO YOU HAVE.
Degrees are like diamonds. They are only valuable because we have given them value. If tomorrow everyone in the world woke up and decided that diamonds were not worth anything, they would simply be minerals. Skills are like oxygen. If tomorrow everyone in the world woke up and decided that oxygen was not worth anything, they would be wrong and would die if they tested their hypothesis.
College is dead.
I was next to speak on the university panel, but I will save my response for a future post. This post is already too long. If you made it this far, it is greatly appreciated.