I have talked to many K-12 educators, as well as college professors. Some are adventurous technophiles, and others are resistant, reluctant or not technology capable of embracing new technology as moves into common use. I think we need to encourage faculty to embrace technology as it arrives, and provide them the tools and support to make them successful, even if a fad is short lived.
Here is my reasoning. If we are to encourage students to love learning and engage in lifelong learning then we must model it. That includes being open to the implications of technological change and engaging that change in our lives. The students do this, but the faculty (and administrators) often denigrate that behavior, I think, to the long term detriment of their relationship with learners. Some, not all learners, may eventually give in and stop being technologically adventurous, for the others, they will ignore the admonitions of their teachers and keep playing with tech. The education system, however, in either case, looses the opportunity to turn a student passion into a learning opportunity.
Perhaps on a bigger scale, we miss the opportunity to teach through modeling behavior that may well pay dividends through a student’s future career. Think about this: for 13 years or more, students have only one profession that they see everyday—that they experience intimately: teaching. For most of those 13 years, they have, and often still do, see teachers doing much what they did the last 100 years, but they may not have enough perspective to analyze teaching at that level. At the gut level, however, they experience educators who aren’t flying in the same circles, engaging in the same activities—educators unable to relate learning experiences to current metaphors—to their life experiences.
So even if the technology du jour eventually goes the way of the beeper, engaging with it, finding ways to integrate it into the learning experience, can help bring an educator closer to his or her students—to relate their lessons in a way that resonates with students who are becoming further and further distanced from traditional education mediums in their day-to-day lives. Outside of the classroom, experiential learning is completely different than it is in the classroom. 30 years ago, all knowledge was transmitted by person-to-person interfaces or by writing, mostly through books. Now learning is available in a wide array of mediums, many of which are sparsely or ineffectively integrated into the classroom experience. And with social media, learners can establish relationships with multiple trusted third-party providers of information and knowledge, and often do so without any for their formal education ever focused explicitly on how to validate those choices.
When we talk about pay for performance, this is a clear area of opportunity. The way educators integrate technology into the curriculum can be objectively measured. Those who do so effectively (innovation plus maintaining performance levels) should be rewarded for their efforts, and those who don’t should have successes pointed out during their performance reviews so that they too can model learning (you don’t have to be good at it, just make an effort and demonstrate learning—the students will take pleasure in reversing roles occasionally to help their teacher or profession become proficient at tech).
Educational institutions need to decide what they want to encourage strategically—what behaviors they want to reinforce through design. I think that encouraging the use of the technology du jour should be high on the list.
Adopting the technology du jour will:
- demonstrate ongoing learning to students
- enhance the relationship between educators and learners
- create new metaphors relating knowledge to personal experience
- facilitate new opportunities for learning engagement by channeling the learning messages through channels to which learners are attuned.
Those are all pretty good reasons to experiment, even for the most skeptical educator.