I had the opportunity to spend this past week at Connect and network with some of the most influential educators in Ontario and across Canada. One conversation with a district level admin really resonated with me and I wanted to share my thoughts about it here…
I’m struggling with what I believe is an epidemic in education- chasing the evolution of technology.
How can we not?
Literacy has always been defined by technology. And as such, if technology defines the context in which we learn, socialize and experience the world, we have to continue moving forward, or fear being left behind… or even worse, not providing our students with what they need to be successful now, and in the future.
But, as technology continues to develop at an exponential rate, we are forever being dragged along behind our changing times- trying to keep up and catch up to what’s new -and what’s next… but should we? How do we find that balance?
What compounds this issue is that we are bound by the funding allocated during each given school year to invest in initiatives that we believe will move learning forward. However, classroom teachers have become increasingly more aware of the initiative ‘shelf-life’ that carries a June expiration date.
What I’ve realized as a result of countless conversations with teachers is that these kind of experiences have conditioned us to start over every year with something new, regardless of where we were at in our learning the year before. June signifies the end… as opposed to a pause, with a focus on moving forward into September. So what are the implications for us? and for our students?
Repeating these kinds of experiences year after year is not only leaving teachers and students feeling exhausted and burnt out, but we are perpetuating a generalist skill set without ever really mastering anything… . Maybe some would argue this isn’t necessarily a bad thing?
If we compare the idea of integrating new technologies to that of teaching a new grade, the first experience you have is all about getting your feet wet, dipping your toes into the pool where you will eventually swim as you become more comfortable with the curriculum, the relationships you have with your students and your colleagues, and the experience of learning something new. But if we were asked to change grades every year we would never leave the shallow end. Is this not true for the integration of technology as well? If we are always looking ahead to ‘what’s new’, and continuously starting over year after year, might we -on some level- be committing ourselves to a more shallow implementation of technology-integration?
I understand that this posts generalizes the experience teachers have year and year, and it’s not the case for everyone. And I also recognize the need to change -and embrace it myself. However, I feel there is an urgent need for us as educators to better understand the “WHY” of our choices when integrating technology. I also believe we need to better understand “HOW” these kinds of tech-integrated experiences will benefit learners in our system now, and in the future.
I have always been a firm believer in integrating technologies into classroom programs that are being using in the “real-world”. By doing so, we are recognizing and valuing the experiences our students have outside our system, while at the same time making informed decisions about the kinds of tech-integrated experiences our students need to be successful within our system. This “one-life” approach to technology integration allows us to build bridges between home and school, while helping students develop the necessary skills to be safe, productive, contributing digital citizens, guided by our knowledge of effective pedagogies. It’s not about ‘what’s new’. It’s about WHY, and IF new is better, and HOW it contributes to a better educational experience for learners. If our focus is on leveraging digital technologies to develop 21st Century Competencies, and create a culture of innovation, risk-taking, and continuous learning, it would stand to reason that we need to provide students with an educational experience based on continuity, so when they decide to dive into the deep end, they know how to swim.