I had the pleasure of attending the Alaska Society for Technology in Education (ASTE) conference last week. This conference is typically attended by Technical Directors and Superintendents of the many Alaskan districts and offers sessions regarding technology in the classroom.
The vendors, obviously, are typically directly or indirectly related to technology. This is why I was there, of course, as The Chariot Group serves as a reseller and partners with numerous manufacturers “in this space.”
I am grateful to have attended this conference as it opened my eyes to what is possible. Indeed, that was the theme for this year’s conference, “Imagine if IT was possible!”
I hail from the chalkboard era, and while we all know those dusty old things served two purposes (communicate an idea and discipline students by making them clean it), the chalkboards themselves weren’t mind blowing.
- Interactive boards, projectors and signage?
- 3D printers?
- Collaborative applications?
- Software to allow school to update and/or troubleshoot ALL of the school’s devices remotely?
- Fully digital curriculum?
These things are mind blowing!
I spent two days learning about technology and the coffee wasn’t horrible either, so I consider the two days away from the office well spent! 🙂 The sessions, the vendors, the keynotes, etc. were enjoyable, educational and insightful but what I enjoyed the most was speaking with the students who had attended the conference.
Talking with these students made me realize just how behind the times I am. I thought interactive flat panels were “the future” tech for the majority of our classrooms. Uh, no, interactive flat panels are needed today; they are not a luxury of the future!
My discussions with these students clearly highlighted that their minds are able to imagine engagement, interactive and learning possibilities whereas I am not yet able to see it.
These students easily offered a plethora of ideas. Whether it be through true “virtual classrooms,” gamification, or a variety of innovative collaborative technology ideas, these students are chomping at the bit, so to speak, to enter what I refer to as The Twilight Zone of Possibilities.
Until these enlightening conversations, I could not remotely imagine how technology can and should help students apply complex ideas or philosophies. I had not yet realized how virtual educational settings and processes may help develop diverse global classrooms without the expense of traditional ones. I had not considered how attending a virtual national, international and global classroom has a direct and positive benefit on attitudes regarding culture, ethnicity and diversity. Moreover, I had a hunch but did not realize how this emerging generation is at total ease with virtual education as opposed to traditional learning.
Finally, these conversations validated what I already feared…people like me (my age and perhaps my attitude) interfere with bringing innovation and creativity to our kids’ classrooms.
Unsettling as it is to realize I am part of the problem, I concede my limited imagination hinders my full endorsement for increased technology in the classroom.
You see, I learned the old way and think I turned out ok, so my attitude has often been, “why spiffy it up?” My thought, “it worked when I was your age” has limited my willingness to explore new ways of teaching. My cynical view of decreasing student outcomes has made me want to “go back to basics.” And finally, my life experiences have convinced me that technology often goes unused and, therefore, money shouldn’t be spent on it.
Reading that paragraph above, do you think ill of me?
Our world has changed and it’s high time I, and people like me, accept the fact that our students need technology! They have grown up with it, they relate to it, and they know what it is possible by using it.
When we, the adults, the decision makers, the funders, etc. intentionally or unintentionally keep technology out of the classroom because of our own limited attitudes and imagination, we are stifling our students’ ability to learn and absorb in a way that works for them.
I am now committed, and I challenge you to do the same.
- We need to equip all of our classrooms with collaborative technology;
- We need to support and train our teachers who want to utilize technology to access curriculum, share information, engage their students, or enable group interaction, and honestly, we need to replace those teachers who do not;
- We need to invest in content management platforms to help facilitate a diverse curriculum and/or student-focused access;
- We need to quit fearing mobile devices in our classrooms and, instead, facilitate and help students use them wisely to better engage and learn; AND
- We need to begin to listen to the kids we are lecturing. They should have a voice in how they are taught and, honestly, we would benefit from learning from them as well.
We don’t know what we don’t know, so let’s learn something!