If you see technology controlling students, then you've got a classroom using 21st century technology for 20th century teaching. If you see students creating and programming the technology, then you’ve got a more modern classroom approach.
Too many classrooms cover Lesson 52 today and Lesson 53 tomorrow and the next day, guess what they’ll do…. 54. These same classrooms will make a fatal mistake when using technology. Falling short of the potential of technology, they’ll program our children to just learn multiplication facts or grammar—not that technology doesn’t teach these things more rapidly… it will.
But we need to unleash creativity, not just find a faster way to learn facts. Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon talked about the tendency for “dumb technology” uses more than 40 years ago,
“The phrase ‘technology and education’ usually means inventing new gadgets to teach the same old stuff in a thinly disguised version of the same old way. Moreover, if the gadgets are computers, the same old teaching becomes incredibly more expensive and biased towards its dumbest parts, namely the kind of rote learning in which measurable results can be obtained by treating the children like pigeons in a Skinner box.”
There is a model for technology integration called SAMR. The first stage of implementing technology in the classroom is “substitution” where you just substitute technology for what you can do already. Teachers who just use technology to teach facts and routine items are stuck in substitution. To successfully implement new technology, we must get to the R stage of “redefinition.”
In my classroom, I teach the principle of convergence. For example, when your GPS and smartphone merged, that is called convergence. I used to have students just learn what had converged in the past. But now, I have students invent how they think technology will converge in the future.
This year, when I taught this lesson, Rebekah, a tenth grader envisions smartphones converging with contacts. She made the following video.
We learned about the term convergence but instead of memorizing examples, students created something new. John Seely Brown says
“To fully utilize a new teaching technology you often need to invent new teaching practices as well.”
When journalist David Carr was asked to give advice to students, he said,
“You have to make stuff. No one is going to give a damn about your resume, they want to see what you have made with your own little fingers.”
But to create, we must give students permission. We must make classrooms places where they can experiment and fail. For without failure, there is no success. Without permission, there is no creativity.
“Studies of creativity suggest that the biggest single variable of whether or not employees will be creative is whether they perceive they have permission.” says management expert, David Hills.
We need to give students permission to create and innovate. Our classrooms are not prisons of the mind. We should not stifle students in rows and chairs, rotely entering numbers into an iPad, when their fingers long to create a movie.
Math facts may be significant, but the simple fact is that timidly using technology to program students is a waste of technology, a waste of time, and more importantly, a waste of mind. It is time to bravely redefine what a classroom can be.
Brown, J.S. New Learning Environments for the 21st Century, 2005. Retrieved from www.johnseelybrown.com/newlearning.pdf April 12, 2012, p. 5.
Kleon, Austin. Show Your Work, p. 41.
David Hills as quoted in Maxwell, John. How Successful People Think, p. 33
Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon, “Twenty Things to Do With a Computer,” Artificial Intelligence Memo #248. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1971).
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