Edutopia

Back in 2005, Marc Prensky wrote in Edutopia that the main barrier to achieving this ‘edutopia’ was the hardware obstacle of getting to 1-1 computing.  In Clint Hamada’s presentation at Learning 2.0 in Bangkok, he talked about a new 2:1 initiative at Yokohama International School in which the 7th grade students were getting both MacBook Pros and iPad minis. Clearly, at both YIS and at other 1:1 schools, the edutopia that Prensky dreamed of didn’t materialize when the 1:1 ratio was met.

In my own school, at UNIS Hanoi, I regularly hear teachers talk about how they aren’t able to get enough training on new technologies that get rolled out.  Today, when we talked about some of the new developments and future of education, one recurring theme was that the DP curriculum of the IB restricted our ability to try out new ideas.

As many schools that have gone 1:1 have found out, technology alone does not do very much.  Even schools that invest time into training workshops for the teachers often underestimate how many hours of training teachers will need for it to make a difference to their students (According to research from Stanford University, stand-alone or fragmented workshops lasting 14 hours or fewer have no statistical effect on student learning.

In order to teach and learn ‘new things in new ways’ we need to make advances in imagination. Marc Prensky’s concept of Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives is important here, because it requires a leap of imagination to try to design new lessons, classrooms, and schools for our current students, Digital Natives. This is the heart of what Prensky’s discussion of teaching and learning ‘New Things in New Ways.’

Imagination is also the essence of Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model of tech integration.  As SAMR makes quite clear, it is easy to fall in the trap of doing the same tasks with new devices (a.k.a. Substitution).  The difficulty in creating lessons at the Redefinition level is usually not a struggle to find the appropriate hardware, or to learn new software; it is a most often a failure to see the learning potential inherent within a new tool or technology.

Part of this ‘failure to see’ comes from information overload.  It seems like there are so many new devices and apps appearing every day, and so many updates to old devices, that often we find the need to shut out anything unfamiliar.  At times this can be strategic, for it allows us to process what we already know and begin to master it more completely.  Other times it can make us retreat back to the familiar.

I don’t think that the answer is that we all need to speed up our rate of change with regards to tech.  I think we need to embrace change but do so thoughtfully and strategically, so we are able to concentrate our focus on the technologies, the training, pedagogy, and the learning environment that will further teaching and learning most efficiently.  As Prensky points out, this change does not come overnight. In that same article in 2005 he wrote: “So, let’s not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more.”

Tangle by Pendlestock

How is teaching and learning changing with the introduction of new tools? Teaching and learning are changing, but not in a direct, causal fashion.  New tools are stimulating new teaching techniques, which address new pedagogical areas, which creates new learning issues, which stimulates the need for new tools.  New tools, primarily hardware and software, are just one part of a technological/educational landscape that contains numerous variable in complex relationships. Teasing apart this relationship is a major challenge for educational researchers today and in years to come; presumably this challenge will also build a market for some new tools.