A colleague recently emailed me a slick video on 21st century education. It certainly ticks all the boxes – clear message, simple design, emotive statements, catchy music. I was impressed but when I watched it again, I questioned whether we are succumbing to the hype of technology? Are we allowing ourselves to be distracted from the core work?
We know today’s learners can collaborate, share and publish their work on the internet but are we simply skilling students to use the technology or are we challenging them with ever-richer and more complex experiences and opportunities to deepen insights?
As Michael Fullan writes, “Without pedagogy in the driver’s seat there is growing evidence that technology is better at driving us to distraction….the notion that having a laptop computer or hand-held device for every student will make her or him smarter, or even more knowledgeable is pedagogically vapid.”
He’s right. It’s easy to be seduced by the tools but it doesn’t bring us any closer to answering the question of what it means to be a teacher in today’s world. As we’ve seen throughout the history of schooling, tools change but the teacher is the constant. Good teachers have always started with each student, crafting experiences that challenge them. These relationships are built on mutual trust and respect.
Teachers in today’s world need to be expert pedagogical designers who understand what tools are available and how these tools can support the learning. Good teachers have always been critical consumers of the next big thing – open to embracing the opportunities and finding ways of embedding the learning.
Videos like the aforementioned are useful in reminding us there is no more relevant a time to re-visit the key questions of what we do, why, how and for whom. Textbooks are becoming obselete in today’s world but so will schooling if we don’t focus on improving instruction. That’s the danger of the hype.