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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Educational Discourse in 2012

If the first 18 days of January 2012 are an accurate indicator, 2012 will certainly be a year full of educational discourse throughout the country, especially in the Northeast. Gov. Cuomo in NY and Gov. Christie in NJ have engaged in some tough talk these first few weeks of the new year. They promise education reform is coming in the form of teacher and administrator evaluations, modifications to the tenure process, increased teacher salaries, and more charter schools to name a few. We can only hope that some of these touted reforms ultimately improve student learning.

Another topic that is sure to engage educators is technology integration in the classroom, but I have some trouble with this one. For the most part, public school educators seem to be stuck in a rut. Simply having a computer, digital projector, and an interactive whiteboard in a classroom is not an effective use of technology in 2012, especially if that projector is mounted to a wall or the classroom ceiling. Yet, some believe that simply getting students to utilize these technological devices is providing them with the skills they need to be college or work ready. I beg to differ.

Educational technology discourse in 2012 must take the next step. Public schools must get their students to utilize technology to network with others, to collaborate with their peers throughout the country and world, and to begin to create products and solve problems in ways that were unthinkable less than a decade ago. Educators need to realize that available technologies are simply the vehicles to give their students the skills they need to be successful citizens in the current and future decades. Having students use these technologies as word processors, projectors, or to make visually pleasing graphics and presentations is not enough. We need to get our students focused on networking, collaborating, creating, and problem solving, and to appreciate how to utilize the current technologies to get these things done.

Then again, if the politicians' proposed modifications to teacher and administrator evaluations continue to prioritize accountability test scores, can we blame schools for using technology as expensive overhead projectors? I'm interested in your thoughts, so please leave a comment.

2 comments:

  1. Before we can take the next step (which I agree must become a priority), I think it is important to qualify the idea of technology being a vehicle. If technology in the classroom helps engage students or make instruction more efficient, I see technology as a beneficial vehicle. I think your vision for technology is on point and I agree that it should facilitate networking and collaboration; but not all students, teachers, and classrooms are ready for it and that doesn't mean the way they are currently using technology is so bad.
    I fear that as technology progresses (as it inevitably will), we will get a little further away from the basics and fundamentals that many of us (who grew up without Google and Twitter!) had engrained in us. Handwritten notes have been replaced with emails, handshakes with texts, books with Kindles...the technology sword is double edged. Educational leaders must utilize technology to meet students' needs and not the current trend or fad. I believe that by asking the question "How can we accomplish this", we are taking the first step in having the necessary discourse.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Joe. You make a good point in that technology helps to engage students and make instruction more efficient. It is our job to ensure that we are using it best to give students the skills they need to be productive citizens who are ready for life after K-12(16). Also, I agree that school leaders need to distinguish between the technology that best improves student learning from the latest trend or fad. Remember, it's all about separating the rigor from the "snake oil."

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