Putting technology first—simply adding a layer of expensive tools
on top of the traditional curriculum—does nothing to address the
new needs of modern learners.
Technological change is not additive; it is ecological, which
means, it changes everything. —Neil Postman
For us teachers and education leaders, this moment of rapid and radical technological change is not what we signed up for, is it? A trillion web pages; a billion smartphones; movies, TV shows, newspapers, and novels on
demand, wherever we are, whenever we desire; near
ubiquitous courses and coursework, with teachers,
tutors, and technologies that let learners of any age learn
whatever they want, whenever and wherever they desire.
“Always on” access has created an abundance of learning
potentials that scarcely existed even a decade ago.
No, this is not the picture most of us painted for
ourselves when we went into education. Most of us
went into teaching understanding that school was
pretty much the only education game in town, the
place where kids came to get information, where, at the
end of the day, we were responsible for disseminating
the knowledge, we assessed whether our students got
it, and we stamped it “an education.” For that vast
majority of kids (and for us, too) who attended a
brick-and-mortar school, that’s been the unbending,
monolithic vision of schooling for 150 years.
So what do we do when that vision begins, finally,
to be undermined? What do we do when the fast-maturing technology—the web—which has upended
just about every other traditional institution we’ve
grown up with, sets its sights squarely on schooling?
And what do we do as schools become just one of
many places in both the real and virtual world where
our students can get an education?
Welcome to what portends to be the messiest, most
upheaval-filled 10 years in education that any of us has
ever seen. Resistance, as they say, is futile.
So Many Ways to Learn
The news that change is now seriously afoot, although
daunting, is good news on many levels. In fact, it’s hard
not to look at it as great news for kids, who will see
growing availability of computers and access as a means
to learn deeply and passionately in ways the current
system of schooling was never built for. I can’t help but
look at my own two kids and feel a twinge of envy. For
the learner, these are exciting times.