Sunday, September 11, 2011

Children's Education: Past, Present, & Future

Both of these videos convinced me that educators all over are beginning to have a sense of fear when it comes to the future of education. It is not that teachers and schools will be unprepared for technology because of the cost. Rather, it is because we may not know how to use future technologies to their full potential or even correctly. These two educators, though, have great ideas on what to prepare for in the future (which is becoming our present). More importantly, both videos give insight into how we shall not allow our children to live through the same mistakes as past generations had to.

David Warlick's video was a bit dry, but its message remains clear: the process of teaching and learning is in a state of flux right now and must be rethought. His ideas weren't as revolutionary in my mind as the other video speaker, but the Three Converging Conditions makes a lot of sense. As cliché as it sounds, the message remains true: our children's future is unpredictable. This, viewed beside how tech-savvy our students are already in this new digital landscape and online environment, may not be as large a problem as it seems. Students may be transforming right beside the very technology they are growing up with, but this should be viewed as a positive thing and not a waste of idle time. 

I do give kudos to David, though, for knowing that young children are already connected and primed for using technology's various interfaces and pieces of hardware. For example, a toddler's intuition to pinch or slide their own fingers on an iPad screen will come in handy down the line. I believe that the more we are surrounded by computers, the less foreign and daunting they become.

Alan November's message struck a chord with me. His reminder that kids do not have the same sense of contributing to their own community as in the past is sad. I can see how sitting in a classroom and receiving grade after grade would be unsatisfying. Of course, in the past during colonial times, education wasn't as well researched as it is in the 21st century, but students today are being set up for limited reward. He argues, "Change the concept of the learner into someone who becomes a contributor by doing their work." He then adds that because of this, we must redefine the work. Advanced thinking like this is what drives the future of education and the concepts that embody the work itself.

It seems like November is preaching that students are very self-helping and self-sufficient when it comes to work on various technologies. His idea that there could exist "a network of children that are helping one another learn" is simply groundbreaking. The tools are all there nowadays in 2011 and 2012, so why not trust our kids to show their potential as Generation Z-ers? If these children are already born into technology at their fingertips, then why not set them up to help themselves in their work? This huge idea changes the way teachers need to interact with students and the dichotomy that has existed for decades.

Yes, we may be more distracted by many fun technologies today (social networking sites like Facebook or mobile gaming devices like the iPhone), but saying that we are losing our critical thinking skills is harsh. Maybe it's just hard to hear that we are not functioning to our full potential any longer because tech has made everything too easy? Either way, technology in classes should be used like a tool much in the same way a calculator is used in a math classroom. There are wrong ways to utilize it and then there are ways one can use the Web, for example, that will give progress and satisfaction from both the student and the teacher. I especially like his idea of a daily 'Official Classroom Researcher' because it shows trust and gives freedom. Plus, any links available for students are better than if nothing had been written down that day.

Students, in fact, do need to be life long learners, like everyone. It only makes sense that they start now. Google Docs and other cloud-based services, as well as podcasts make classroom sharing and collaboration easy and fast. It is time to stop fearing and start embracing technology for what it can do.

If preparedness is key, then we must unleash the possibilities of emerging technologies onto students as fast as we can. The important thing is to make sure they know what it can do as well.

Until next time!

1 comment:

  1. Max...It's cool to read your quote, "It seems like November is preaching that students are very self-helping and self-sufficient when it comes to work on various technologies. His idea that there could exist "a network of children that are helping one another learn" is simply groundbreaking" after your excited response to the Sugata Mitra video. :) I saw Alan speak at a conference last year, and he mentioned this again - Kids love learning from other kids. He specifically talked about this Youtube-ish site, which is a site filled with vids of kids teaching math concepts. Thought you might like to see it. :)