As I read the article “Shaping Tech for the Classroom” on Edutopia, I began to reflect on a similar theme that has emerged one after the other. It is this idea that education must keep up with technology, and that the world is changing so rapidly that our methods of education need to adapt so that students are ready for this challenge of a rapidly changing world. Fair enough, I say (to a point anyway).
Another message that comes across is the idea that it is essential to utilize technology as a main component of our classroom pedagogy. If we do not, we will lose our students’ interest because we teach in a style that they no longer relate to. And worse, we will be holding them back from the style of learning that is the wave of the future, collaborative, connected, and fluid.
There’s a reason that I decided to do this certificate. The incredibly wide range of technology tools out there amaze me, and it seems that there are incredible opportunities for learning in a multitude of ways. The connectedness that we experience now, being able to reach out to more people than ever before, could be an fantastic tool for students to stimulate their thinking, exposing them to many different ideas from people outside their immediate environment. In addition, there seems to be a particular set of skills that are needed with this digital age. That while students often really seem to understand how to navigate the internet and learn new programs on their own, there is a literacy issue. How to understand the information they are seeing, to put it in its place in the big picture, how to best communicate it in a multitude of ways, and how to connect and communicate with others with respect and dignity. These are literacy issues that they need guidance with, and this is how I want to help them (and myself!).
That said, there is a devil in me, that remembers an article I read a few months back. This was an article about how many big tech people in Silicon Valley were making the choice to send their children to the Waldorf School. Now I’m quite familiar with this philosophy of education, as I have some good friends who went to Waldorf schools, and my sister is a Waldorf teacher. There is much to admire in their schools. One thing they are not into, however, is technological “gadgets.” In the article it discusses their non-gadgetry approach. The quote that intrigued me in the article was the one from a parent who works for Google, has a computer science degree, and believes the following:
And where advocates for stocking classrooms with technology say children need computer time to compete in the modern world, Waldorf parents counter: what’s the rush, given how easy it is to pick up those skills?
“It’s supereasy. It’s like learning to use toothpaste,” Mr. Eagle said. “At Google and all these places, we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older.”
While personally I don’t agree that it’s as easy as using toothpaste (come on Mr. Eagle, even Google isn’t that easy!), I would agree that picking up the skills for using technology is not necessarily dependent on having been explicitly taught technology in school, particularly at an early age. If students have been encouraged from an early age to develop their interests, indulge their creativity, have the determination and flexibility to solve problems, and to think deeply and analytically about what is presented to them, then it seems to me they are developing the skills they need. One friend of mine, who went to a Waldorf school all the way through high school, became a computer programmer (never going to college either, learned on his own), and is today probably more tech-savvy, connected, and adaptable to new technology than all the rest of his friends combined. He may be a “digital immigrant”, but he’s definitely “gone native.”
In any case, I’m wondering what others might think about this. Just how important is it to use computers in the classroom? If we don’t have them, and yet are teaching them the important skills of analytical thinking, problem solving, taking on challenges, and promoting creativity, are our students really going to be left behind?