Thursday, January 03, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Plugged In and Turned On

After writing the commentary yesterday, I let the thoughts roll around in my head, and realized that it is probably time for an educational revolution. Evolution is common in education. We are reactive rather than proactive, based on the conditions that surround us. After spending 14 years on a school board, I realize full well that funding is usually tight, and spending needs to be confined to the absolutely necessary. But it's time to think proactively, and think differently about the purpose of technology in education today.

We no longer have the option of adding technology to the curriculum. Instead, we have the consequences of NOT adding technology to the curriculum. Our children do not know a world without technology, and increasingly, adults are finding it difficult to remember what things were like before we needed to plug in. I believe strongly that cell phones helped propel technology from a want to a need. While people could opt out of computers, it's much more difficult to opt out of cell phones. Every age, every generation has turned to cell phones over land line phones. At worst, they have the land line phones and a cell phone, at best, they have moved completely to the cell for communication. Phones remain the preferred communication tool. And comfort with the cell phone has translated into comfort with other forms of technology as well.

It isn't enough to bring technology into the schools. Training, while essential, is only the first step in bringing technology into the classroom. The buck stops with the instructor. And if the instructor has not bought into the need for technology, it simply will not be used in the classroom. Period. Technology is often an add on to the curriculum. Do everything you were doing before, but now add PowerPoint. Not good enough. You need to think of technology from the ground up. Re-design curriculum with the tech tools in mind. In all subjects, by all instructors. I read a post on the Infinite Thinking Machine Blog: ( entitled Inspired and Engaged by Authentic Learning in 2007, (Friday, December 28, 2007, posted by Lucie deLaBruere). I talk a lot about authentic learning, and rarely do a workshop without mentioning it. Ms. deLaBruere highlights the work of an inspirational teacher by the name of Nilah Cotes who finds ways to continually increase the level of technology in her class despite being close to retirement. The post itself is inspirational, in that it affirms not simply the existence of technology in her classroom but her emphasis on using that technology effectively. Frustrations with technology ensue (as when a shared folder containing all their interviews disappeared), but the students and teacher work through them together. Is there a better educational experience than working through issues as a team?

So I am calling on educators to experiment with the new technologies and applications. Find innovative ways to use the newest tools out there, and then share your success (and failures) with your colleagues. Yes, there will be frustration, but that is a part of lifelong learning, both for your students and for you. It's time to plug in and turn on.