Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Should I? Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts titled "Why Should I?".  Each post will look at one reason why it is worth the time and effort to improve your 21st Century teaching skills.  


It used to be that information was hard to come by.  In the last couple of decades, the amount of information has exploded, and the access people have to it has grown dramatically as well.  The Internet quickly evolved into a vast repository of nearly everything known to humankind.  Anyone with access can publish to it, adding to the amount of information out there.  Not all of it is accurate or even worthy of publication, but as the content grew, the tools we use to find what we are looking for have also improved dramatically.  

I remember driving to my grandparents' house in western Kansas with my family.  My older sister and I, who argued incessantly about anything and everything, would be in the very back area of the station wagon.  When (not if) we got into an argument, it might be a week before we could settle it.  We would have to go to the school's library, look it up, and prove our point.  That could take a while.  Summers were filled with unsettled disagreements, with each of us claiming rights to several wins in our column.  It still amazes me when I push a button and simply ask Siri to confirm that Bangkok is in fact the capital of Thailand.  

With what we have in our rooms today, we can access nearly every single bit on information known to man.  Any time something comes up that the collective intelligence in the room doesn't know, the answer is right at your fingertips.  Why would you deny your students access to that?  

Even if it is something that you can't find the answer to readily, or those really sticky topics, the Internet and the ability we have with current technologies make it possible for you to find and ask the person or people who can help.  Again, why wouldn't you want to model this for students?  

If "the real world" is what we claim to be preparing students for, then why do we make our classrooms the only place in the country where students cannot seek and find information in the way that the rest of our society does?  It doesn't make much sense when you think about it:  virtually anywhere in the country, a kid can whip out a smart phone and ask questions, talk to experts, connect with others in an online community dedicated to specific skills and work, etc.  But not in their places of "learning".  

Does anyone else see the huge disconnect there?  

I remember a grade level meeting at my former elementary school where the topic of Internet in school came up.  At the time, our district was rolling out a bunch of new technology, so that every classroom would have 5 desktop computers for students to use any time.  One of my colleagues said that they didn't want students to have access to the Internet, because they could just Google all the answers to her questions.  My principal replied, simply, "Well then it sounds like you need to ask better questions."  

That is at least a good part of the point.  We need to be engaging students in the kind of critical thinking and problem solving activities that can't simply be Googled.  They need the Internet to seek information, gather ideas, talk with experts, find tutorials and examples, and publish their work.  They need to be able to see what a setting looks like when they read a book that takes place in an unfamiliar place.  They need to be able to look up data to use in their arguments, to find out about current events as they unfold, and to access the vast amount of tools available online for them to accomplish their work.  

In essence, allowing the use and proliferation of technology in your classroom opens the entire world, and its experts, to your class.  It takes down the physical limitations of the space, and knocks down your classroom walls.  It opens your students up to the rest of the world, the one we say we are preparing them for.  

No comments:

Post a Comment