Thursday, August 14, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Change and Evolution

It's that time of the year again. Yes, although the calendar says its only August 14 and Labor Day is still a few weeks away, there is a distinct 'Back to School' atmosphere surrounding us. Perhaps it's the smell of pencil shavings as parents dutifully sharpen the requisite amount of No. 2's, or the amplified voices of children as they realize that all too soon they will need to spend much of their day quietly working at their desks. But mostly it's the sense of renewal, because 'Back to School' implies a fresh start and a new year. The sins and omissions of the previous year are forgiven as the new year starts with lofty promises and sincere resolutions.

But in the world known as Ed Tech, renewal is a constant. What was impossible to do yesterday is made possible today by simply downloading a new app. Difficult and complicated old apps become amazingly simple. Not long ago, adding photos to this blog required a series of steps. Now there is an icon at the top of the post box that makes it 1-2-3 easy. I remember my excitement at the mere idea of being able to vlog, or add video to a blog, and suddenly there's an icon for that too. Even software companies have evolved. I looked in my supply closet the other day and saw a brand new CD storage case. For years I needed more and more storage cases to house the growing inventory of academic CDs. Now, all I need is a list of the websites where the online apps are located. Change and evolution.

What I don't see is the move from labs to classrooms keeping pace. Although I run an academic computer lab, I have always believed that the real place for computers and accompanying technology is the classroom. There are issues, of course. Instructors need training on how to operate the equipment. IT needs to deploy staff differently to deal with everything from network issues to ahhhhh, the computer power supply plug IS out of the socket. Once those issues are addressed, lesson plans need to be re-vamped to make effective use of the technologies, and, more importantly, a definition of 'effective use of technology' needs to be developed and then refined.

In education, there is always going to be a society of 'haves' and 'have nots'. Yes, that covers the schools that have new equipment and those that don't, but it also applies to staff who 'have' the skills necessary to incorporate technology and those who don't, or even more alarming, won't. Technology is like an oyster creating a pearl. An irritant of something that you want to do but don't know how eventually becomes a pearl after layers and layers of developing skill sets. Knowing how to blog makes creating a wiki easier. Knowing how to blog and wiki makes creating a platform for hosting podcasts simple. Even being able to transform 'blog' and 'wiki' into verbs requires a change in thought process. I blog because I can, and I know that blogging has become simple and intuitive. If only I can irritate the teaching staff enough to make them want to develop a few pearls for their students. Change and evolution. Can you catch a whiff of it in the air?