Edutopia in the 22nd Century

I think it is every teachers’ dream to have an “edutopia” where all learners are in control of their own learning and are able to experience limitless growth in their learning all by learning at their own pace, in their own style and in the 21st century with technology.

In Marc Prensky’s article, Shaping Tech for the Classroom, it was heartwarming to read “It appears that students who write on a computer turn in longer and higher-quality assignments than those who compose by hand, even though it’s still writing.” I know having taught older grades how some students struggle with the mandatory cursive handwriting and focusing on the handwriting took away their love for writing/storytelling.

Adults who stand on the other side of a generation gap can see these new practices as mystifying and, at times, threatening to existing social norms and educational standards. (MacArthur Report, p. 35) I can see why some professionals and parents might see Edutopia in the 21st century as a threat. Some teachers might view this as lack of job security [What am I going to teach?] or the new role of a teacher facilitating the learning as difficult [How am I going to teach?]. Alternatively, parents might value how and what they learned as a child/teen and want the same for their child(ren). For example, I remember the argument (among adult educators and/or parents) between using technology to spell-check and learning how to spell words correctly.

As the paradigm shifts to redefine what education should look like, I hope we keep in mind and be open to the possibility the positive impact it would be on society to have interest-driven students who are inspired to learn and be life-long learners with peers and teachers helping to guide their learning and growth.

With that said, just as we need to prepare and set academic standards, we also need to prepare and set moral and ethical standards with the use of technology. I already see a “participation gap” in my kinders with boys having more access to technology (mainly gaming systems) than the girls. Granted, this might be due to the girls’ developmental interest in interpersonal relationships with their peers (rather than building tech skills on gaming systems). I hate to stereo-type, especially since I was the atypical “girl” and was often called a “tomboy” but girls are generally more friendship-driven and boys are generally more interest-driven in their learning styles.

The other ethical issue would be using technology for cyber bullying. We can’t deny that we haven’t heard news stories of this or stories closer to home (at your school or with your children’s/students).

Edutopia in the 22nd century would hopefully be able to incorporate and instill the ideal conditions of learning in a utopian world where peer-based learning is at its best intention and adult participation is valued. This might mean we as educators and parents have to throw out the industrial revolution’s model of what constitutes a school and radically reconstruct our educational system to start building the new “edutopia”.

Today’s children need to learn the skills that will help them in today’s job market and today’s society. They need to learn how to make decisions on their own, work well with others, and sift through vast amounts of information. And it’s time our schools rise to the occasion and fill this need.

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