Thursday, July 31, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Technology Melting Pot

"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet." WF Gibson

Nowhere is the above quote more true than in education. There really is no standard for how accepting educators are that technology is indeed a part of everyone's future, and how and when they access that technology. In every school there are the pioneers; those who have never met a new technology that they don't at least try, if not embrace. But educational technology is a pyramid, with a select few at the top and the majority filling out the rest.

I'm often surprised when I work with high school and college students by how little educational Websites are actually used. The main reason is that they don't really know that these sites exist. While some social networking sites such as My Space or Facebook might be ubiquitous, tools to make study easier or more effective, say StudyRails or StudyCurve, are not as well known. I'm also surprised by their inability to search with any engine other than Google (or even know that other search engines exist), and that they don't know even the most fundamental tips to make searching more effective.

With instructors, I find even less understanding and acceptance of technology. Educators from grade school to university level are overwhelmed with achievement gaps, standards-based educational reform and standardized tests. The mantra has been 'No Child Left Behind' but the reality is that we need a policy of 'No Teacher Left Behind'. If we want our children prepared for the future, we need to make sure that their instructors are sufficiently well-versed in tools that students will need to achieve success. In addition, administrators often disregard technology skill development training for classroom use. We need a top-down solution.

There is a societal difference in learning now that didn't exist 30 or even 20 years ago. In the past, teachers could teach with texts and lectures, and that was sufficient for students to learn and succeed. But just as previous generations were taught the Dewey Decimal System and how to use a card catalog, todays' students need to learn the skills necessary for finding information effectively. The general principles of learning still apply, but the methodology has changed dramatically. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips, but if you have not learned how to access it, it is merely a lot of wasted code.