With the influx in educational technology over the past decade, many schools, communities, and leaders have missed the point. Most often I hear that they want educational technology to do two things:
1. Increase student engagement
2. Prepare students for the 21st Century
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for increased student engagement and preparing students for the 21st century (we are living in the 21st century right???), but those goals should not be the focus of ed tech. Students are engaged when the instruction and content is relevant and presented with energy and passion. Some of the most engaged learning experiences I’ve ever had were without technology (and better that way). And the 21st century is completely unpredictable. In Will Richardson’s latest post “Defining the Problem of Work“, he looks at the future of work symposium that was held at Cornell University. Hod Lipson of Cornell University makes it clear that machines will replace many of our jobs (if not all) in the future:
Machines are better at learning than humans in many different areas. So now the question is, what will they learn and what’s the end game? If you’re talking 100 years, there’s no doubt in my mind that all jobs will be gone, including creative ones. And 100 years is not far in the future — some of our children will be alive in 100 years.
While that thought is almost too big to comprehend, Will summarizes why this is important for us to think about now:
I don’t get the sense school leaders and policy makers have any sense of the changes that are underfoot, regardless of how clearly we understand them. We’re preparing kids for a future of work that, for most at least, simply no longer exists. And for millions of kids who live in poverty, the odds of working their way up to success are growing slimmer by the day.
My belief is that “Ed Tech” should create more opportunities. And I know that it does when used properly. More opportunities to:
- create, tinker, make, and deploy
- connect with peers and experts
- communicate ideas to a large diverse audience
- collaborate with anyone
- explore interests and learn with purpose
- come up with and solve new problems
- identify systems and analyze critically on the fly
- build a portfolio of growth and experience to look back on
There are many other opportunities ed tech can open students up to, but we tend not to think about it that way. Many school boards want to connect the technology to tests, many teachers want technology to help them keep students interested, and many policy makers want technology to be a “fix-all” for education. I used to think that education was the bridge out of poverty, but now I don’t think education can alone give students that opportunity. Technology needs to be embedded into their learning experiences (whether in school or out) because it is embedded into our world now, and surely our future. We can’t think of it as a “separate” piece. It should no longer be an option for our students to have access. President Obama has said that he wants all students to have high-speed internet access. That’s a great goal. But I want all of our students to have equity in this process. They need technology tools that can help them create the opportunities listed above.
If education is the bridge out of poverty, then technology is the fuel to get across that bridge. We need equity in #edtech.
— AJ Juliani (@ajjuliani) July 17, 2013
That’s my thought. Our funding goals need to change in education, and access to technology for ALL students needs to be a main focus. If we fail to provide this access, we’ll be creating a bigger divide then we ever imagined.