Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why is Technology Being Forced onto Students?

I got that question from a teacher a couple of weeks ago.

My county is gearing up for an unprecedented technology reboot that will put computers into the hands of all students grades 6-12 and will increase access for students in elementary schools. Teachers will finally receive updated laptops with consistent software, and outdated computers will be removed from the schools. It's an amazing and beneficial improvement to our available technology.

But not everyone is happy about that.

Change is a scary thing, and educators bear the brunt of a great deal of change without much voice in the matter. I would argue, though, that the change toward a technology-centered education model is not the result of arbitrary decisions. Instead, it's a common-sense recognition of the changes in our world.

Consider these statistics from Michael Lemaire with Online Schools:

  • 94 percent of today's teenagers own a cell phone
  • 70 percent own a laptop
  • 69 percent own an ipod or mp3 player

We've heard the phrase "digital natives," but it is sometimes hard to appreciate its meaning. We are teaching students who have NEVER lived in an offline environment. I think a more appropriate question would be: why would we force them to learn in an environment that doesn't accurately reflect the real world? 

This technology boom isn't just taking place among teenagers. According to Forbes, a study by Career Builder identifies the fastest growing job - post recession - is that of software developer. In fact, the article notes,"Technology and engineering roles make up the majority of the top ten [fastest growing] positions, indicative of the continued and heightened investments companies are making in these areas." The McKinsey Global Institute identifies the internet as one of the fastest growing contributors to our economy, stating that it "accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth in the last five years." 

So, if businesses are expanding their use of technology, and if the internet is driving our developing businesses and influencing the job market, then students need to be prepared to function in an online world. This means going far beyond the occasional research project and Power Point. Students need to learn to create, collaborate, and problem solve using the same methods they'd use in the workplace. 

Why force our students to learn and use technology? Why wouldn't we? We readily recognize the need for students to understand math, science, history, and communication skills. We haven't yet recognized the need for students to effectively use technology in productive and innovative ways, but we should. Ours is a tech-rich world, and our job as educators is to prepare students to meet the demands of that world. We can't do that if we ignore the most pervasive tool that world uses. 

In an article in the Huffington Post this January, Lydia Dobyns wrote: 

"We need to believe the adults delivering education services are capable of being innovative, adaptive and collaborative and welcome being accountable for student outcomes. Then we need to invest in this belief by providing both the professional development and the infrastructure to make this belief a reality for all students and all teachers."

In this technology reboot, our county is showing us it is invested in this belief. We should remember that, by embracing change, we benefit our most important clients and our most valuable resources: our students. 

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