About two years ago I was in line behind a very sweet lady at the drug store. The clerk told her that the credit card machines were down and they could only accept cash or a check. The woman paid her in cash and then said, “It’s ok…these computers are a fad anyway.” As she left the store my jaw dropped so obviously that the clerk asked if I was alright. As unbelievable as I thought the statement was at the time, I have come to realize that her perspective is much more common than I thought.
Over the last few years, I have engaged in a number of conversations that revolve around the assumption that good teaching should not be replaced by technology. I agree…the only problems are the terms “good teaching” and “technology.” Most of the time, “good teaching” is defined as traditional sit and absorb and “technology” is defined as anything that pulls from that model. Technology should not replace, it should enhance. After all, it allows us to do, to see, and to experience things we never would have the opportunity to otherwise.
For example, I can’t make a 100 acre compound that resembles the society and resources found in the dystopian novel Anthem. Here the students could experience the world of Anthem and begin to ask questions about the society and the oppressive nature of submitting to authority without question. I can, however, use MinecraftEDU to create a digital world, much like the one in Anthem, in which the students can experiment and carry out objectives. Sure, we could read and they could formulate an essay about the society, but there is a way to immerse them in the novel. Students go from passive respondent to active participant. Technology allows for an experience they would not forget!
I remember going to Disney World and watching Captain Nemo in 3D. It was the first time I had ever experienced something so cool. A few years ago I heard two educators, Brad Waid (@Techbradwaid) & Drew Minock (@TechMinock), speak about an emerging technology known as 4D. This technology allows students and teachers to explore objects, anatomy, chemistry, and virtually any subject through interactive 3D models using a smartphone or tablet. One such company that is on the cutting edge of creating 4D experiences is DAQRI.
As we continue to educate students for careers that don’t yet exist in industries that are in their infancy, we (educators & administrators) have to be willing to go beyond the traditional and embrace the emerging. Technology allows us to create experiences in the classroom that were not available 10 years ago. Maybe you don’t want to create a 4D project or dabble in gaming in the classroom (maybe you don’t have access to either), but I do encourage you to think differently about what you do in the classroom. Don’t be afraid to ask students for help, for input, for collaboration. Educational technology is not about how much you know or how much you have, it’s about how you approach the content. As Eric Sheninger states in his book Digital Leadership, “Technology has the power to engage students, unleash their creativity, and allow them to apply what they learned to demonstrate conceptual mastery.”