Often in this blog, and other education-related blogs that I read, the focus of blog posts is often on the technology tools themselves, why these tools should be incorporated into the classroom to help students learn and how-to’s of accomplishing this tasks. However, sometimes I feel a desire to be philosophical and look at the state of how things really are and where things are going. In doing so, it is often easy to take the stance the what is happening right now in education is insufficient, that we as educators are often ineffective (at least when it comes to connecting kids with technology) and that we have to make things better. At this point in time, feeling this way is especially tempting for me as I work with my network to get the Ontario Educator Meetup off the ground.
I want to get a little philosophical but I don’t want to fall into that negativity trap. Obviously, something right is happening in today’s schools because kids are learning, reforms are taking hold and improvements are being made. Jobs are being filled by qualified individuals and standards of living are improving. Negative comments that bemoan the quality of today’s education system and/or the capabilities of today’s students/graduates reek more of nostalgia than of actual reality. For example, I’ve often heard complaints that today’s youth can’t do mental math when handling a job as a cashier. I can’t help to believe that the statements like this are biased and non-reflective. I challenge particular example with the following statement: in modern capitalism, cashiers have always used some sort of adding machine and when those weren’t available, calculations were always done on paper. I challenge this statement in another way as well – if a young person has the high stress job of being a cashier at a the largest discount department store in the world (and we all know which one that is don’t we?), they couldn’t possibly deal with the pressures of the job if they couldn’t rely on cash registers. Essentially, then, the comments made by these individuals are not based on reflective thought on the nature of reality but on some biased, preconceived notions.
Let’s look at reality – where are we headed? Socially, western societies are becoming more global. People are taking advantage of technology to organize their lives, to communicate with others in a number of different ways and to access content on-demand. Individuals young and old are leveraging their immediate access to the Internet to live differently. Corporate staff rely on BlackBerries. Graphic designers and other visual artists rely on computers and software packages. Doctors are using mobile devices to search for reference information or to prescribe medications. Others in the general public use their mobile phones to:
- communicate via Facebook, MySpace, SMS, Twitter, voice calls;
- manage their time through calendars, alerts and reminders;
- consume multimedia; and
- browse the Internet
Handheld devices are becoming the means by which more and more people are organizing their lives, consuming content and creating content.
Education needs to resemble this new reality.
Leaders in education need to ignore ill-advised , unreflective opinion and focus on meeting the needs of kids in today’s reality.