A couple of years ago U.S President Barrack Obama predicted that education needed ‘sweeping changes’ and that modernization and the integration of Educational Technology (EdTech) was the way to go about it. I don’t think enough educators around the world recognize or agree with the significance of Obama’s clever calculations. The world is indeed changing rapidly and how we approach education will determine the kind of effect and influence teachers have on learners today.
As a teacher, every pore of my being is convinced that the educational community is poised at the brink of something explosive, something colossal. These are exciting times for schools around the world. Teachers, parents and students all around the globe are turning to the revolutionary power of modern technology to transform the way children learn. Like an excited reader wanting to skip pages to get to the exciting revelation at the end, there are times when I wish I could see that far ahead and get an understanding of how far the reach of EdTech really goes, but I guess getting there one step at a time has its own charms as well.
The boom and revolution of technology as we know it, has impacted our lives as profoundly as the printing press, the wheel or even instant coffee. Technology has permeated and has spread through to every facet of our daily lives; it was only a matter of time till its repercussions were felt within the walls of the classroom.
‘Chalk and Talk’ has been the standard pedagogical approach to teaching-learning for the longest time now. I remember the long lectures and didactic lessons I sat through as a child, trying my best to copy down or absorb every morsel of information that was thrown my way. I also remember the funny smell that lingered long after my clothes had been covered in the fine white dust that flew off the blackboard every time my teacher asked me to ‘rub the board’. I don’t mean to sound like I come from the stone ages but you get my drift, right? We’ve come a long way since then and classroom dynamics have undergone titanic sized transformations.
Classrooms do not look, feel or function like they did ten or fifteen years ago. Everything has changed and its ramifications are mind-boggling. The best teachers in my opinion are the ones who adapt to these changes. The ones who are prepared to sacrifice their many many years of experience at the altar of new learning. The order they once knew has given way to controlled chaos. The nature of the teacher-and taught relationships has been revamped and everything has become freer, looser, and frantic even. Convention has failed….and there is no better time than now for invention and innovation!
So how does EdTech fit in to the larger scheme of things? I have come to believe that EdTech has got to be at the center of any educator’s vision for his/her pupils. I recently read somewhere that ‘knowing has become obsolete’. How true that is, if we can teach our children the skills of using EdTech to collaborate and discover new information for themselves, we have indeed taught them 21st century skills that will empower them for the future.
I recently took the plunge into using EdTech for myself. Baby steps of course, I began using twitter and youtube to connect with my pupils online and what a treat it has been. I am still getting used to the idea of having my face on youtube but it’s my new educational blog that has got me most excited. The blog has allowed me to introduce my students to the responsible use of social media. I love it when I see them use twitter to ask me course related stuff, but reading their responses on the blog and getting an insight into what they’re thinking and why they thinking that way has been both a revealing and rewarding process.
The multiple benefits of extending classroom conversations to the online world is truly remarkable. Suddenly, I find that I’m surrounded by little subject experts. The links I post, the videos I share and the information I direct them to through the blogosphere has ensured that the people I meet in class every morning are well prepared and raring to go. The depth and breadth of their online discussions, their research and their commitment to course work has taken on a complete new avatar.
I’m not blind to the fact that there are several potential drawbacks of using EdTech but those reasons are hardly enough to limit the innumerable positive effects EdTech can have on the teaching-learning process in 21st century schools. My experiences with EdTech in the last few months have been overwhelmingly encouraging. These online learning communities have unparalleled power to self-instruct and to impart both knowledge and skill and I’m just glad that I can be a tiny part of it all, orchestrating modern-day magic, as it were.
Mahatma Gandhi with his economic use of words was ironically able to sum up the state of affairs teachers and educators across the world find themselves in today. Teachers, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ EdTech cannot be viewed as an ‘add-on’. EdTech is simply a modern-day tool. It needs to be integrated and implemented carefully and that’s why the teacher’s role still remains most critical. Like the Chinese proverb states, today’s children were ‘born in another time’ and if we want to get through to them, if we want to connect with them and have a meaningful impact on their learning and on their lives we must be able to speak their language.
Embracing EdTech is no longer an option; it is a 21st century requirement and the faster you get on board the more convinced of its extreme benefits you will become. I know it sounds daunting and can be nerve-racking for anyone who considers themselves technologically challenged, but I assure you – baby steps…that’s all it really takes!