Technology in the Classroom: How to 'Get It' - Part 4

This is the fourth part of a four part series explaining the steps you can take to integrate technology into your classroom. These articles assume you're a K-12 or higher-ed educator, so some topics are intentionally vague. But hopefully you'll find something useful. Apologies in advance to English teachers. [Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3]

podcast student learning through technologyThe biggest thing I learned from college was how to study. The biggest thing I learned in the years that followed was how to teach myself marketable skills. Online communities exist, that are as important to students as their real-world communities. Here are some curriculum suggestions for the coming year:

  1. Help children build self-esteem and identity through (online) community involvement.

  2. Help teenagers learn to study and teach themselves (through new media).

  3. Help young adults learn how to create things that make a better world (using digital tools).

Teach Innovation and Encourage Creativity

One of the beautiful things about the American educational system is the way in which we encourage creativity. We have art, band, theater, etc. We honor the artists and influences of the past. We've always had tools we use to create.

We still need to honor the artists and influences of the past. But now the tools are changing. And in order to ensure that the education your students receive remains relevant, you have to speak their language technologically. You have to use the same tools they use, so you can spend less time discussing their always-changing feature-sets and more time discussing bigger issues. This accomplishes two things:

  1. It takes the focus off the tools themselves.
  2. It allows us to focus on specific skills and mental models.

After all, you may not get to decide what the world of tomorrow looks like. But your students probably will. And as much as students need to know what tools are available today, they also need to feel encouraged and empowered to help shape a society that they want to be a part of.

In order for students to reach that point, there also needs to be a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation in schools. Since schools can't churn out factory workers like they used to, building businesses in a service and knowledge-based economy is the next logical step. And the inevitable result of such a system is that for some students - think Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg - being part of an educational 'system' reaches a point of diminishing returns.

Preparing for Life - Not just College

It should be every parent's desire that by the time their child graduates from high school, they already know how to learn through self-direction and create meaningful relationships. These skills aren't really taught in school, as much as they are acquired, socially. And technology allows us to amplify these social skills. What can be taught in school however, is how to leverage certain tools responsibly, and adapt to emerging technology. 'Adapt' is the key word here.

With this type of education, it's possible to prepare for life - not just college.

To this end, there are movements such as UnCollege which promote self-directed learning and can be used in tandem with university courses. They have a great list of resources that could be useful to students of all ages. And be sure to keep an eye out for MITx. While it hasn't officially launched yet, it promises to be a valuable resource for the educational community as well.

To Sum it all Up

If you want technology in the classroom, all you really need is a big screen and a portable device that connects you to the internet. If you build a place for your students to connect with you online, they'll probably use it (though not as much as Facebook). And how well you use it will be reflected in how much your students take away from it.

In a 2010 TED video, Kevin Kelly, quoting Alan Kay, says the word "technology" just means "anything invented after you were born". Think about that for a second. There's nothing to be scared of in that definition. But it sure does put things in perspective. So learn, adapt, figure out how to get technology in your classroom. Your students depend on you for it.

image by flickingerbrad

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About Chris

Chris Collins My name is Chris Collins. I'm an artist, designer and marketer, specializing in new media.
The opinions shared on this blog are my own, and do not represent the opinions of my employers or clients, past, present or future.

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