I recently got into a discussion with my friend Errol St. Clair Smith, Executive Producer at BAM Radio Network on the effect that technology has had on the news media. Many of the old tried and true guidelines of journalism have been forever changed with the 24-hour news cycle, as well as, news on demand. There is also the ability of anyone to publish at anytime and have the capacity of communicating tolarge masses with the click of a enter button (return button for Apple Folks). This has had a vast and yet-to-be-determined effect on not just the media, but our entire culture as well. The computer is now the Publisher. The smartphone is the video cameraman. Woe has been the newspapers and magazines that had failed to heed the call.
As educators we tend to only consider the effects of technology in Education. Technology has always moved us forward with many industries and professions falling by the wayside. Where have the blacksmiths gone? How many shopping center parking lots have one-hour photo processing booths? When was the last time a college student walked the halls of the dorm trying to borrow a portable typewriter to finish a paper? How many surgeons can operate today based on scalpel skills alone? How many factory workers have been replaced by mechanical Robots? This list could go on for several pages of text, but I will end it here, hoping the point has been made.
Almost all industries and professions have been at the very least affected by tech, and at most, some industries have been eliminated as a result of it. Where does that leave education and educators? I have often said that the biggest myth in education is that computers will someday replace teachers. Now in some respects, I am not so sure it is still a myth. There is the often-quoted expression any educator who can be replaced by a computer should be. I am not sure that the best of teaching may survive at the hands of ill-informed legislators. I am definitely not a conspiracy theorist. There are however, a number of efforts taking place in legislatures around this country that may have a profound effect on the way we deliver education.
There are any number of initiatives going on that, taken as single events, may be non-threatening, or even having a positive effect on education. The combination of these initiatives however, may have a profound effect on the way we deliver education.
Some states have now passed legislation requiring a percentage of education be delivered in a blended form. Blended learning is a combination of delivery of instruction using the classroom and the computer. There is legislation allowing Charter schools to circumvent many of the restrictions of public education. There is the movement to increase class size in every state. Even more troubling, most recently one state is considering legislation to remove certification requirements of teachers.
Looking at all of those pieces as a whole, there seems to be emerging a possible threat to end Public Education, as we know it. States can create an atmosphere where kids can be placed in charter schools with few restrictions using computer-driven education, directed by non-certified technicians, delivering education to hundreds of kids, maybe in a single class, who do not even need to be physically present in a school. All of which was made possible through state legislation. It is cost cutting and might address the tax concerns of many.
We do not want to start a movement for educators calling for a Rebirth of the LUDDITES. We do however need to have educators be educated on the need to understand and use technology as a tool for learning in an environment that supports it. Professional Development must be continual and supported by districts. Educators are the professionals of Education and representative of some of the very smartest people in our country. They should not need to look to politicians and business people to determine how best to educate our children. However, if educators relinquish their relevance, they may be eliminating their profession. Educators need to be in the discussion of education as relevant, educated, informed advocates. I believe this can best be accomplished by being connected and collaborative through technology. We can make it work for us, or surely it will be turned against us.