Sunday, June 26, 2016

Avoiding Tech for Tech's Sake (Or, Boring Things are Boring - EDT 598 Reflection)

Many things stood out to me from this week’s readings, but none more so than the TED Talk from Kayla Delzer (2015):

At about 3:10, when discussing the need to embrace purposeful technology, she mentions that “Using technology just for the sake of using technology, is wasteful” (“Reimagining Classrooms: Teachers as Learners and Students as Leaders”). She goes further, just a few seconds later, when she adds that “If something is boring on paper, it’s still going to be boring when you put it on an iPad.” Yes, Boring things are boring! And yet, much of our technology use is still based on paper-and-pencil activities that students think are boring! Yes, in many cases the worksheets have now become shiny flashcards with virtual trophies at the end of them, but that’s not transforming the classroom. It just isn’t.

I also appreciate Delzer’s (2015) comments about popping the overprotective bubbles we cast around students, and urging students (and teachers) to Google themselves. Students should like what they see when they Google themselves. That means not just keeping all the negative stuff from spilling over online; it also means making sure the positive stuff, the stuff that can get you a job or an internship or a college acceptance letter, is online. Education should engage students with their world. It should connect them to experts and mentors in fields they are interested in. It should allow them to share what they know and utilize their many talents toward the acquisition of knowledge. And, it should allow them to have tangible or digital representations of their learning that can be shared widely, including with people who may be in a position to help them climb a career or educational ladder. Let’s face it; a worksheet is not going to change a child’s life in the way that they need their education to do.

Toward that end, the new ISTE standards for students (ISTE-S 2016) were just released at the ISTE 2016 conference, going on right now in Denver (if you are like me and are totally jealous that you can’t be there, you can follow the #ISTE2016 hashtag on Twitter), and they go a long way in outlining the kinds of things that students need to be able to do with technology to succeed in the 21st century economy. Some of the indicators include:
  • “Students build networks and customize their learning environments in ways that support the learning process.
  • “Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
  • “Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
  • “Students cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world” (International Society for Technology in Education, “ISTE Standards for Students,” 2016).
Now these are the standards we should be using in schools! As a whole, they call for students to take charge of their learning, to think about the world around them, to collaborate with others and learn from experts in the field, and to understand the ramifications, positive and negative, of their online behavior and be proactive in constructing a digital footprint that sets them up for future success.

Or, to channel my childhood nostalgia…

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