Friday, March 2, 2012

New Things In New Ways

Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Marc Prensky delves into the paradigm shift that must take place if technology has any chance at transforming the learning environment. Simply having technology available does not mean learning has been impacted. Most often, simply having access to a computer gives us a new way to do the same things we have always done. Perhaps the task is done better, but has the essence of learning been changed?

Prensky says that technology adoption is a four step process.

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways.
  • Doing old things in new ways.
  • Doing new things in new ways.

It is not until we are willing to do new things in new ways that we will truly make inroads to changing what school looks like - truly have a positive influence on learning. A paradigm shift must take place. Simply adapting lessons to utilize technology won't do it.

Are there barriers to this paradigm shift? Loads of them. People are lazy. They like to do things the way they have always done them. Why spend so much effort to redo everything? Curriculum must be rewritten to embrace the use of technology - and mandate it where necessary. Teaching methods must be addressed and student assessments redesigned to reflect we are now asking students to do.

In Prensky's view one major hurdle is 1:1.

The missing technological element is true one-to-one computing, in which each student has a device he or she can work on, keep, customize, and take home. For true technological advance to occur, the computers must be personal to each learner. When used properly and well for education, these computers become extensions of the students' personal self and brain. They must have each student's stuff and each student's style all over them (in case you haven't noticed, kids love to customize and make technology personal), and that is something sharing just doesn't allow. Any ratio that involves sharing computers -- even two kids to a computer -- will delay the technology revolution from happening.

Making the jump is not easy. It involves infrastructure, methodology, mindset, and money. Is the pay off worth it? Absolutely. If we aren't willing to put in the work to make the shift we are no longer taking the best interest of our students into account. The world they live in involves some sort of device for nearly all aspects. If school is the place to prepare for the 'real world' don't we need to be replicating the real world?

An article by Jennie Magiera titled Redefining Instruction With Technology: Five Essential Steps explores her opportunity to use iPads in the classroom. In this reflection she realizes that simply inserting a device into her current practice was not successful. She had to make the paradigm shift. Are we willing to join her?

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