For those of you who are unaware of what #Edchat is, it is a weekly discussion involving thousands of educators discussing a specific educational issue. The discussion takes place on Twitter with two sessions, each discussing a different pre-selected topic. A common bond of an interest in education is only one of several bonds common to a majority of participants. Most chatters are technology literate or at least Twitter literate in order to participate. One may also assume that their participation indicates a common interest in the specific topic being discussed. The majority of the group is teachers. Others involved would be administrators, educational consultants, educational vendors, parents, authors, and people who were interested in the topic that was being discussed on social media channels in preparation for the Chat.
The many factors of commonality among the participants often foster agreement as to solutions for the problems being discussed. That does not mean that the solutions are weak or less warranted, only that they are recognized and agreed to by many of the participants. Educators, being who they are, often challenge these ideas to test their worth during the chat. It would seem the profession attracts those who love playing the “Devil’s Advocate”. This agreement on solutions among participants has labeled Edchat among some as an “echo chamber”. Unfortunately, labels sometimes cast doubt over what are very sound ideas as people place the emphasis on the label rather than the idea.
Changing education reform from discussion to action was the topic of last week’s #Edchat. It was one of the most active chats we have had since we began #Edchat. It was obvious that another interest common to #Edchat participants is the belief that there is a need for education reform and a need for educators to have some say in how that will happen. The resulting Blog posts during the week provided some answers to a growing frustration with things either not happening fast enough or not happening at all. People put forward some strategies for action.
The whole idea of connectiveness among educators for collaboration is still new to many. Again, labels seem to get in the way of progress. Twitter is connecting tens of thousands of educators around the world. They are successfully exchanging ideas and collaborating around the clock and over every time zone. Tens of thousands of educators collaborating sounds great until we consider the fact that there are millions of educators out there. Even if 200,000 educators were connected and collaborating, it is still a minority. There is a stigma attached to the technology label among some educators. There is a huge stigma attached to Twitter a s a legitimate form of collaboration or conveyance of ideas. The approach to Social Media and technology in general by educational institutions go a long way in discouraging participation in any collaboration amongst educators.
Technology is still viewed as something separate from education. People are still debating its place in education. They are still debating whether or not it promotes learning. There are some who insist on discussing if technology can ever take the place of the teacher. There are some who demand more research must take place before we can accept technology in education. All of this stalls any forward movement to change.
If we accept that “Ubiquitous” means omnipresent: being present everywhere at once, it would certainly apply to our everyday lives in regard to technology. It has affected most of what we do or come in contact with. Our health, transportation, entertainment, manufacturing, communication, appliances, and leisure time have all been infused with technology. We never debated it. We never questioned it. We never researched it. Except for a Will Smith and a Robin Williams movie of fiction, we never really questioned whether technology would replace people. Yet, in education, these questions are debated all of the time. ENOUGH ALREADY!
Technology is only a tool. It is the Platform that our children must use to earn a livelihood. Our children need to have skills that use the technologies that are ubiquitous in our society and the world. Educators do not need to teach technology, but they need technology to teach. Yes, one can be a great teacher without using technology, but what good does that do for a child who must use those learned skills in a society where technology is ubiquitous? A teacher providing the skills without technology is providing an incomplete set of skills for what today’s children need. It will be up to that child to fill in the blanks in his/her education. That child will need to pick up technology skills on his own. He will need to correlate the acquired skills from that teacher into a technology rich environment, which the teacher failed to do, in order to succeed.
There is no longer a debate to be had on whether or not educators should employ technology as a tool. It is already ubiquitous in our culture. It is here to stay. It is developing and moving forward. Our education system is not keeping up with that change. Our children are either on that train prepared to move forward or waving bye-bye at the station. Relevance is now key to our educators, because it is key to our children. There is now a new literacy required to use technology successfully. How many of our educators are lacking in that literacy? How many educators are now illiterate?
There are so many problems to address in education that it is always a challenge as to where to begin. My suggestion is to stop creating impediments by debating the need for something which is ubiquitous in our society and will only be more evident in the culture of our children. We need to encourage the smart use of technology. We need to teach and develop the smart use of technology with professional development. We need our administrators and teachers to model the smart use of technology. We need to provide exposure, education, and participation of parents in the smart use of technology.
We need to understand that teaching writing with an Underwood typewriter and erasable bond paper is not the best way to teach today’s children to be writers. Let us not debate whether it could be done that way. Of course it could, but why would we do that? We as educators must be relevant and that is a day-to-day struggle. Educators can use technology to accomplish this. We need to educate the educators how they can maintain relevance.
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