Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why Should I? Part V

This is the fifth 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. 

Preparing Students for Their Future, not Your Past

It's been said that technology isn't technology if it happened before you were born.  Does it blow your mind whenever you see a car go by?  Do you marvel at the images on a television screen, sneaking a peek behind the gadget to see where the people inside it are coming from?  Do you look around for the person on the other end of the phone, because they must be nearby?  Of course not.  You grew up with those things.  They aren't magic, they've always been there.  

The Internet is like that for our students.  It is just there.  It always has been.  Can you imagine how frustrating it is for them that so many of their teachers never let them use it in their classrooms?  It would be kind of like your teachers making you use a quill and ink despite the invention of ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils.  It's ridiculous.  

Yet here we are, still talking about it.  

Inside the walls of a school, ironically, is one of the last places that seems to be unchanged by technology.  Nearly every other part of the world has changed, and changed drastically.  Why do so many teachers still pretend that it hasn't?  How can we say we are doing our jobs preparing students for the future while walking into a virtual time machine to our pasts when we teach?  

Here is a fact:  your students are going to spend their entire lives in the future.  Yet, most teachers still prepare them using things from their pasts.  I've mentioned this statistic before, but when we did a survey of 99.9% of all certified staff in the district just a few years ago, more than half answered that they allow students to use computers/technology tools in their classrooms once per month, once per year, or never.  That's right, more than half.  Once per month or less.  

Sure, there are some things that are timeless.  Critical thinking, problem solving, working with others, communicating, the list goes on.  No matter what technology comes along, these will be important.  

Do you realize that these things are the very same things that are better taught with modern tools?  Technology tools help students solve problems.  They help students learn to think critically.  They can remove the things that got in the way of really thinking about the problems, so that they can focus on the creative thinking needed to solve it.  And do we even need to talk about communication?  About how much faster and more efficient it could be with modern tools than in our time in school?  How many more opportunities there are for students to create with digital tools today than even ten years ago?  

Teachers today need to stop thinking about technology as an add-on, as something else they need to do, deal with, or monitor.  It is simply the way the world works now.  

If you claim to be preparing students for the world, and you don't use technology to do it, you are preparing them for a world that no longer exists.  

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