Technology Changes Everything
Recently I was watching reruns of a television show from the late 1990’s. The character was using a cell phone. Remember how novel cell phones were back then. Most of them were big, clunky and got very limited, often interrupted service. Think of how far we have come since then. The cell phone has gone from being a single purpose device (being a telephone) to a multi-purpose one (telephone, alarm clock, calculator, web-browsing tool, gaming device, email, etc.).
Think not only of how technology is transforming our world but also how quickly it is doing so. On average, a laptop computer that costs $300-$500 provides significantly more power and versatility than one that cost twice that amount just 2-3 years ago. Digital televisions are cheaper and have significantly higher quality pictures than ever before. Google, as a company, was founded in 1998. It is officially 15 years old. Today, there are 31 billion searches on Google every month. It makes you wonder to whom these questions were addressed B. G. (before Google)? More than 175 million users are connected to Facebook every moment. If Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest country.
Kids born in the last 15-25 years have entered a very different world than the one most adults entered. We refer to them as “digital natives”. They were born into a digital world. Those of us who were born before this time are often referred to as “digital immigrants”. We were not born into a digital world but must deal with the realities of this “new world”. Most of these technology “gadgets” are foreign to us digital immigrants while they are native to our children. This reality is driving significant changes in how students learn and consequently modern schools.
When I was growing up, if you wanted to research something (to learn more about it) you would spend inordinate amounts of time at a library looking through books, magazines and encyclopedias. Now, we have all the information we need by accessing the internet on smart phones. Recently I asked an audience at the local Lions Club how many had learned how to do something in the last 6 months by using Youtube. A significant amount of these digital immigrants responded in the affirmative. If this is true for our digital immigrants, how much more our digital natives?
Schools must adjust to this new kind of student. They learn differently. They demand different tools and they must be equipped to use these tools not just for social networking and gaming but for communication, productivity and collaboration. This is why so many districts have 1:1 device initiatives. In some districts the device of choice is an Ipad. In other districts it will be a different device like a Chromebook. What is becoming abundantly clear is that the devices of today will be outdated and replaced by another device tomorrow. It is not the devices that matter as much as what they allow students to know and be able to do.
In Waseca Public Schools, we are not yet ready for a 1:1 initiative. Our staff need more training. Our infrastructure needs more development. Yet our new vision statement reads, “In collaboration with our community, we will provide content-rich, rigorous, innovative, personalized learning to prepare all learners for college, career, and life.” While this vision will not be met solely through the deployment of technology, can anyone imagine how we could accomplish this vision without the infusion of significant technology and teachers equipped to leverage these new tools to transform the educational experience for our learners? Of course not! This is our work for the immediate future. However, the infusion of devices is not far off. Digital content is being developed at an exceptional pace and will allow districts to repurpose funds that used to purchase printed textbooks for devices that will allow 24/7 access to the digital learning tools. This is happening all over our state and our nation. It may in fact be coming relatively soon to your hometown schools. These are truly challenging and exciting times. There is much work to do!