I had a great day with my school’s educational technology cohort yesterday.  This is the second group of teachers at my school that is given a day each month to work together to explore how technology supports the work they do in their classes.  It is as much about the pedagogy as it is about the shiny tools.  The whole field of educational technology seems to be a big balancing act that few seem to understand.  I’m not entirely sure that I am among those that do, but I recognize that I’m further along the path than some.

What I find interesting is that so many folks don’t understand why we can’t always articulate exactly what it is that we need the technology to do for us.  They don’t get that the educational paradigm is shifting.  As fast as the technology shifts under our feet we are anticipating the skills that our students will need and we are trying to find the best tools (technological or otherwise) to develop those abilities.  We’re no longer teaching reading, writing and arithmetic – well at least not the same reading, writing and arithmetic that we were taught.

One of the resources that I picked up in Minneapolis was a video by PBS about educational technology.  At first blush, I have to admit, that I thought that this was going to be yet another propaganda piece using the 21st Century Skills buzz words to promote changes in education.  The more I watch this film, the more I get out of it.  I was soooooo wrong.  This film is packed with a lot of amazing ideas.

I started yesterday with the opening 15 minutes of this movie.  It started us thinking about a number of things:

  • One of the essential traits that our students will need for success will be the ability and desire to quickly embrace change, understand it and make new skills and ideas our own.
  • The ability to concentrate for a long enough period to finish a book is rewarded, but spending the same amount of time conquering a video game is called an addiction
  • Gaming is by nature, self-assessing.  A gaming approach to education can develop mastery while engage students in a more active way.
  • There are appropriate times to turn technology off and do other things.

The last point may be seem like a no-brainer, but ther further down the technology path we go as teachers, the more we often feel that everything can be done at a screen.  As Nicholas Carr points out in The Shallows, screen reading and book reading are very different things.  It’s more than OK to close the laptop and pick up a book or have a conversation face to face.

If you are interested in the PBS video, it is available to viewed online.  I highly recommend it.  I can hardly wait until our next cohort meeting!

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