Education, the Future, and Technology

My Vision for teaching and learning with technology is that all educators will be able to use technology efficiently and with facility to provide optimal learning environments for their students. This is a grand vision, and one we can, and must achieve!

In getting to my vision, I believe that our efforts should be spent educating teachers and teacher educators. Technology must be integrated into teacher professional development . Our students already know how to use technology to learn. We must change the habits of mind of the teachers.

Educational reform such as Common Core Standards and Race to the Top Initiatives tend to focus more on content than on process. Although computer-based assessments are looming, there is not much focus on true technological integration. Yet, technology is critical to our education futures.

In The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil (2006), an inventor and futurist, suggests that the pace of technological change is increasing, and that there will soon come a point in which this pace will become so fast, it will change how our very nature as humans. This moment of irreversible change is called the Singularity. For educators, the Singularity has enormous implications because our ability to use technology and to teach with technology is critical to whether or not we will manage the Singularity or be managed by it.

This may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but in fact, the rate in which new information is being created is getting faster. Information and knowledge are able to be shared in ways that were not previously possible. The rise of Facebook and Twitter, and their connections to other reasonably new technologies such as cell phones and text messaging have changed how people are able to communicate with each other. Add to that iPhones, iPads, and Droids, and it's not hard to admit that we are already living in a technologically enabled world that we might not have thought possible even five years ago.

For many of us, we are digital immigrants, those soon-to-be rare people who can remember a world before there was a computer in every home and school (Prensky, 2001). We have learned to adapt to technology, and perhaps even embrace it, but we might not think of video games as learning. Digital natives, on the other hand, learn differently, through games, hypertext, and multitasking, for instance. Prensky's concept of digital immigrants and natives are almost a decade old; in response, he suggests that the notion of digital wisdom will become more salient to education. Digital wisdom, for Prensky (2009) means that we will accept a certain degree of digital enhancement in order to allow technology to make us more efficient. Prensky argues that the human mind and technology can have a symbiotic relationship. Technology will not do our thinking for us, but rather, allow us to be better and more efficient thinkers.

Since technology should not do the job of thinking for us, we must rely on the education of the present and the future to develop these capabilities in students. This is a tall order, given that most educators are digital immigrants. We must use leapfrogging, "jumping over barriers to get ahead" (see the Leapfrog Institute for more information) to get ahead. That is, we need to feel bound to a certain path, but rather a freedom to leap ahead. There is no right technological progression--a school may not use laptops, but that doesn't mean the school cannot leap ahead to using iPads or cell phones or some other relevant technology that can work in the classroom.

The internet, and internet technologies, can be used to foster learning in any content area. For example, in the case of teacher professional development in the area of accommodations for students with disabilities, there are online tools to help teachers make accommodations decisions. For example, at the National Center on Educational Outcomes, there is a synthesis of accommodations research called the Accommodations Bibliography. This tool provides a quick overview of every research-based article on accommodations in a searchable database. For a teacher who does not have much time to do his own research, this tool may be invaluable. In addition to this tool, another tool on the same website allows a user to see what the current accommodations policies are in all 50 states. Individual states post professional development materials online, and this is important because educators are able to access the materials when they need them, not just on the day of professional development. Additional tools can and should be created to provide collaboration opportunities for educators.

Opportunities to use the internet for finding authentic information that teachers really need is important to bringing these digital immigrants another step closer to realizing the benefit of technology in education. The truth is, technology in education is not a benefit, but a necessity. We must start integrating technology in education at a faster pace. The future will be here before we know it!


References:

Kurzweil, R. (2006). The singularity is near: When humans transcend biology. New York: Viking.
Prensky, M. (2009). H.Sapiens Digital: From digital immigrants and digital natives to digital wisdom. Innovate. Available online.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5). Available online .

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