Our week 4 focus was on ‘the future of education‘. When I talk to teachers who have been in the ‘business’ for a long time about changes in education, especially high school teachers, I find myself getting sticky with cynicism (yes, dad included). Maybe it’s me, but I find elementary teachers in general more optimistic and willing to see possibilities in education. One reasons might be that at those grade levels, students are still allowed to explore what it is to be a learner – to experiment – and therefore, so are their teachers. The closer students get to graduation, the more emphasis goes on the almighty grade, and teachers feel an enormous pressure to have their students perform – since naturally, parents and administrators will be looking to them if things go wrong.
Lucky me! I get to work in elementary! I am an optimist and yes, I do think education will change. Mostly, I see education changing by delivering more differentiated lessons to students according to their needs, interests, and abilities. I do think that technology will play an important part.
First, we all used to have to have one textbook per class. In the past, this wasn’t avoidable for practical and economic reasons. Today, with information readily available online, and a plethora of tools to access, organize and manipulate it, teachers can give students a variety of sources to work with. With so much information, we need to teach students better research and selection skills, that’s a given – but what great skills those will be to have. For some teachers it might be difficult to give up the control they had over which information students would have access to, but we need to be more flexible – end of story.
Second, making information available to your students 24-7, so that they can access it as often as they like, when they like, and where they like, really gives them the chance to digest it at their own pace. I remember the frustration of being in a class where the teacher never paused and either assumed we all got it or didn’t care. With technology, teachers are now recording their lessons ahead of time, putting readings, videos and questions on wikis or blogs, and having assignments available so that sick or students away from school can keep up. This frees up time in class for teachers to give individualize help and enrich experiences for students who have a facility with the topic.
Third, students have a choice of how they record notes during class or on their own. Some students are happy with the traditional notebook and pencil option, but others are using their laptops, ipads, and smart phones to take photos of the white board, type and organize the key lesson components. Gdocs are going to be instrumental as they also give students the opportunity to record, alone or as a group, and share notes. Evernote and other cloud based tools might become favorites too.
Finally, there are great, usually free, presentation tools available. We can give students a variety of options when they want to present what they’ve learned. We can let them express themselves with tools that call on different skills and strengths. We can teach them how to select the best presentation tools according to the information they have – and show them that PPTs are not always the ideal way to go. We can encourage them to try a variety of presentation tools so that they have a chance to find out hidden talents or push themselves out of their comfort level.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a beginning. Will education as we know it change because of technology? Yes! But first, we have to get teachers willing to experiment and try it out. I’m putting my money of elementary teachers!