Some big questions for educators (and parents and policymakers)

I can’t attend Educon this year. Snow in Philadelphia has canceled school today so they’re moving to Plan B. I thought I’d share some questions for attendees to ponder as they interact with each other this weekend. These are some of the questions I asked attendees at last week’s ELMLE conference in Amsterdam.

  1. 7 billion people on the planet; 5 billion cell phones. 2 billion people on the Internet. 500 million people on Facebook. 200 million on Twitter. 85 million on LinkedIn. 5 billion photos on Flickr; 50 billion photos on Facebook. 17 million Wikipedia articles. 500 billion mobile phone apps were downloaded last year. 6.1 trillion text messages were sent last year. Apple will sell 20 million iPads this year. 35 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute (or 176,000 full-length Hollywood movies each week). When are we going to start integrating technology into our schooling lives like we do in our personal lives and in our non-school professional lives?
  2. Is your school organization serious about educational technology? (click on link to see what I mean)
  3. What percentage of your school technology budget goes toward teacher-centric technologies – rather than student-centric – technologies?
  4. Our kids live in a world in which they expect to be able to create, publish, share, collaborate, connect, and have a voice. What can you do to tap into the educational power of your students as online collaborators, creators, sharers, and contributors?
  5. QuestionsHow can you tap into the power of open access and open educational resources for your staff and students?
  6. How are you (or should you be) tapping into the power of technology to facilitate differentiated, individualized, personalized learning experiences for your students?
  7. Schools typically move at incremental, linear rates of change. But everything around us is moving at an exponential, revolutionary rate of change. It’s like the Industrial Revolution crammed into 15 years instead of 150. Are you facilitating linear or exponential change in your school organization?
  8. In all of our efforts to teach students safe, appropriate, and responsible technology use, are we forgetting the more important job of teaching our students empowered use?
  9. Everything is moving to the Web. Everything. When we teach our students how to write, are we teaching our students how to do so in hyperlinked, networked, interconnected online spaces for authentic, relevant worldwide audiences? (hat tip to Will Richardson for this one)
  10. When e-books or e-textbooks now can contain hyperlinks, embedded video, live chat with other readers, collaborative annotation where you see others’ notes and highlights, and/or interactive maps, games, and simulations, does it still make sense to call them ‘books?’ How might we tap into their advantages and affordances?
  11. Electronic versions of books on Amazon now are outselling both their hardback AND paperback counterparts. Reference materials are moving to the Web at an exceedingly fast pace. When all of the books in your media center become electronic, will you still need a physical space called a ‘library?’ Will you still need ‘librarians?’
  12. Do we really understand what our kids are doing with social media or is what we know primarily from the news media?
  13. Are we intentionally, purposefully, and explicitly modeling these new technology literacies for our students?
  14. What percentage of my job could be done by robust learning software that not only delivers content in a variety of modalities to students but also assesses them on their mastery of that content? What percentage of my job could be done by a lower-paid worker in another country who is accessible via the Internet? In other words, what percentage of my job requires me, the unique, talented human being that stands before you?
  15. Do I truly ‘get it?’ Am I doing what really needs to be done to prepare students for a hypercompetitive global information economy and for the demands of digital, global citizenship? In other words, am I preparing students for the next half century rather than the last half century?
  16. And if I’m not… If as a teacher I’m not incorporating digital technologies into students’ learning processes in ways that are relevant, meaningful, and powerful on a regular and frequent basis – should I get to keep my job? Or should I be replaced by someone who will get the necessary job done?
  17. And if I’m not… If as an administrator I’m not creating, facilitating, and maintaining robust technology-infused, globally-interconnected learning environments for staff and students, should I get to keep my job? Or should I be replaced by someone who will get the necessary job done?
  18. And if I’m not… If as a policymaker I’m not allocating fiscal and policy resources in directions that move schools and society forward in the appropriate directions, am I willing to be held accountable for sacrificing our children’s futures for the fears and political pettiness of the present?

Have fun in Philly, my friends. May your conversations be fruitful. May your learning be legendary. [and what would you add to this list?]

Image credit: 268/365 – Default state

12 Responses to “Some big questions for educators (and parents and policymakers)”

  1. Love the post – linked and tweeted from my own spots.

    Great questions! Sad to consider some of the answers in our case.

    It’s all right there. But the speed at which we seem to move precludes any real advancement, and especially so given the ever-increasing rate of change.


    • In answer to item K.- librarians are not the keepers of the books. We teach students to use, evaluate and create ideas and information in whatever form it exists. One of the best sessions at Educon was by librarians Joyce Valenza, Gwyneth Jones and Shannon Miller.
      These chicks and I are not your mama’s librarians. Check it out.

      Great post otherwise. I am forwarding to my IT director who is reworking our social networking policy hopefully for good and not evil!

  2. These are great questions to think about. They are somewhat hard to consider from inside the classroom without some other reference points. Within the building we collaborate and understand how others are using technology, but I am very lucky to work in a system that I consider somewhat progressive in terms of technology. I have no idea what it would be like to work in an area where questions like this would not be important.

    I do think one of the biggest challenges is question “C”. There are still too many barriers for focusing our technology needs toward students and student learning versus teachers and teacher productivity.

    Finally, I think on system (maybe even school) levels if technology integration and professional development were more differentiated toward teachers. We recognize differences in student learning needs, too often rather than finding ways to challenge and empower teachers to move forward in their integration of technology we have to sit in training for things we can already do or learn on our own.

    Thanks for the questions, they definitely help move us forward as teachers and administrators.

  3. I’d have to say that question “C” is missing the problem. The budget for both is far too small, and the budget (and TIME) allocated for training is ridiculously small. Expecting every teacher to take independent initiative to learn all of the new teaching methods and technologies is both foolish and non-productive. Holding them accountable for it without support is just ridiculous!

    • Both are far too small, Bill, and you’re absolutely correct that funds and time for training are meager at best. It’s very sad and it’s not the fault of teachers but rather administrators’ and school boards’ mindsets and our generally-antiquated ways of thinking about professional development.

      Many of the questions I list above are systemic questions, not ones that are meant to fall on individual educators’ shoulders alone…

    • Here is another area where media specialists (aka librarians above) play a role. A large part of my days have been spent in support of technology integration as well as information literacy. This has included professional development for teachers as well as student instruction. One of my main goals this year has been to create a resource for teachers and students so that they can go to one place for information and technology tools rather than leaving them to search out these things on their own.

      I also wanted to mention that in order to provide access to e-books and e-readers (as well as other technologies) for all students, programs need to be put in place and managed so that these tools are not just available for those who can afford them. Again, in my experience, the place that this has been happening has been the media center.

      Don’t write us off yet – we are just as excited to evolve with the times in order to support staff and student learning. Thank you for a very thought provoking article.

  4. For question P: it’s arguable that the old-school teachers will DEFINITELY keep their jobs because the rate of change in schools is so incremental and linear.

    We can’t sit around and wait for the upper echelons of school administrators to have a cataclysmic epiphany and magically overhaul our outdated modes of delivering content to students.

    It’s up to the teachers.

    The universities that teach teachers are also accountable. Are they equipping new teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge to teach in a digital age?

    • Amy, as an education major at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee I can tell you that our university is equipping new teacher with the skills and knowledge to teach in the digital age. I have never blogged or followed a blog or tweeted or done anything other than e-mail until now. Our education technologies class is all about using technology in the classroom. Everything from smartboards and clickers to blogs, podcasts, web pages and even twitter. The focus is not only on how this can benefit the teacher but also on how it can improve students classroom experience.

  5. A very good day to you, Mr Escobar, there are many solutions to your question,you have presented to people,parents and policy makers,in government,in business,my friend,my new friend,if i may add,is called, Investment,i feel,it depends greatly,on how bouyand and resourceful,he or she is,as an individual,as for you,do not know,how resourceful or bouyant,you are,if you invest a portion,of your income,present the I.T solutions,where you have highlighted,there is great need for information tecnology and integration,having gained your desired goal,amongest all other portions or segments,in the society,the policy makers,even the Government,will come to see,the importance of these give facts,i consider as foresight,not questions,just like computers,garbage in,garbage out,you sow,you must reap and having majority on you side,having gained popularity and acceptability,in any given socity,since advancement,is all,any given nation,seek for,not putting into consideration,the expense,at which,education,be it,medival or projective learning methods or applications,invest wisely and your gain,apart for your desired objective,the inflow of income,in to the resource pool,one which you have now created,will not only,make you heave,a sigh of relief,but also make you see,what an investment,truly is and in the words of Abram Lincon,it not what your country can do for you,but what you,can do for your country,being bouyant and courageous,is all,it takes.Andrew Kene.

  6. That is a lot to think about and you made very good points that someone really does need to be held accountable to answer! My name is Rebecca, I attend the University Of South Alabama and found your blog through my teacher Dr. Strange. . Technology in the classroom seems like it is going to be a very big issue in the very near future as a must, if not presently. In “A” where so many are connected outside the proffessional world, yet it seems teaching methods maybe somewhat dated. I have to admit the first time I saw a “Smart Board” in a college classroom I was blown away. That is truly a great tool used for teaching and will probably be a must in every classroom soon!

    I am only 24 years old and after returning to college after a four year break, so many things have changed. Two of my courses are online and have online text books, which drives me insane. Like you stated, will we need libraries and librarians? I sure hope so, even now in the class that assigned me your blog to read, I have to print things out and have tangible copies. I believe every classroom is different, as well as students and we still will have to cater to how they learn best. Personally, putting everything online would not be the best teaching method when I was a student. However, the students I will come to teach may not even know another option exists. Technology may also keep more students interests alive, pen and paper vs. computer? Most students would probably go to the computer.

    Thank you for your post, as a aspiring teacher it has given me a lot to think about and look into. Rebecca Sisson

  7. Great Questions. Just listening to a Seth Godin book yesterday and came across this quote which applies in many ways to why we stick to the old ways: “When you fall in love with the system, you lose the ability to grow.” Keep pressing in!

  8. Although there is significant lag time in the system to assimilate new technologies, when historians look back at this time of rapid technological progress, they might deem it was advantageous that the schools were slow to respond.

    There are so many unknown effects of our new technology. How does it effect our ability to cultivate attention? How does it effect our ability to process information? What effects are there on our physical health?

    My gut tells me that the technological life should be either in or out of the classroom, but not in both. If we had such control to determine which of the two would get the technology, we would likely find that technology is of greater support for our students in the classroom than in their social lives. And, if we could, it might be best to introduce technology into the classrooms and to reduce non-education technological uses like Social Media and text messaging. Of course this wouldn’t fly. But, it might be the preferred solution. Given that it wouldn’t happen, maybe the technology inside and outside of the classroom is too much, and we should be contented with a simpler, more reflective environment in our schools. Let the students use their wikipedias and the like for their homework.

    -Ken Lewis
    Internet Marketing Specialist

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