Technology is in our lives, affecting how people work, shop, socialise, connect, play, and learn.
Technology has changed the way people learn. Information is no longer confined to textbooks; learning now crosses borders, continents and cultures, and the available tools mean that learning appeals to students with different learning styles, and has greatly helped bridge the gap for differently-abled students. Google, who run projects such as Google Library and Google Books, offers one of the most powerful and widely accessible education tools on the planet; its Search Engine.
The recent calls for tech companies like Google and Apple to ‘raise the bar in education’, then, don’t make sense to me. Both companies already provide students with access to information, resources and collaborative opportunities with peers and subject matter experts in different locations, so aren’t these companies already contributing to raising the bar in education? What we don’t need is for tech companies to create ‘square wheel’ solutions such as Apple’s ‘Classroom’ – a concept which, by name, is itself already outdated (so much learning now happens outside the traditional classroom). We need them to continue what they’re already doing; providing widespread access to high quality content and resources. There is already plenty of technology, what we need now is to focus on the learner model of the future, for digitally native students. This involves re-learning how to learn, and helping teachers to climb down from the traditional teaching pyramid. The debate should be about access, not ownership.
It is educators themselves who should be raising the bar! Instead of focusing again on technology as a stand alone solution, all schools should embrace the access to resources that teachers and learners already have, yet there are schools around the world that are merely paying lip service to the need for change, by buying hardware and software. This is just technology for technology sake, without any consideration of how it will be used. These institutions are now delaying the opportunities for students to access enhanced learning experiences.
Perhaps the delay is caused by teachers who aren’t sure where to start, who believe technology isn’t a priority, or rebel against spending any time learning how to use the technology that already exists. There is no doubt that education will be entirely different in just the next 20 years, when the current generation of digitally native learners are at the helm. The future of traditional bricks and mortar schools is in jeopardy if the education sector continues to wait, refusing to accept that technology can inspire and benefit learning, and that learning is no longer confined to the classroom alone.
Schools need to be using the technology, apps and resources that are already available, in the same way that the digitally native learner is already using them in their daily lives.
We see this in maths, with so many people around the world suffering from ‘maths anxiety’ unnecessarily. If maths was taught and assessed in a more practical way, using technology and the tools that are available in learning and daily life, rather than having to rely on recall alone in exams, it would surely remove some of the stress and broaden the appeal. Not everyone wants to be a mathematician, however maths plays an important part in the day to day life of us all, both socially and at work, so if the teaching and assessing of maths focussed on the learner and supported them with the tools and technology available to them in the ‘real world’, students would be better able to relate what they were learning to potential careers.
Perhaps if the use of technology in the classroom became more prevalent we could start teaching children how to ask questions, rather than focusing on knowing the answers. Students would be able to own their future and timetable their own learning, enabling them to consume learning moments outside of the school day; intelligence, then becomes about knowing how to use what you have, not simply relying on what you know. It sounds like an obvious path to progression – so let’s not waste any more time.
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