Our Thinking Has to Change


This is a bit of a rant…

This morning I was pinged on a tweet sharing the article, “Why new technologies could never replace great teaching“.  For some reason, I was up early and read the article and then was WIDE AWAKE.  Along with the author, I have a strong belief in the teaching profession.  That being said, I believe that educators should in many ways be leading the world, not trying to catch up to it.  How many businesses look to what education is doing?  How often is it the other way around?

One of the quotes from the article really caught my attention:

Put at its simplest, if future models of learning means encouraging young people to spend prolonged periods in front of faceless computer screens, exposed to largely unregulated material in an inherently unsafe environment, then that is clearly not the way forward.

Wow…a lot of assumptions made there.  Let’s break it down a bit.

There are a lot of people that are spending a lot of time on computers and connecting with people.  It is becoming normal that kids and adults, are using social media to talk to PEOPLE, not simply look at things that can’t interact back.  In fact, those people on the other side of the computer actually do have faces, and kids and adults are actually making connections with them.  So much in fact in education, that conferences are starting to change their formatting in many places to allow for networking time.  Not to create time to connect with people that you don’t know, but to talk to people that you have connected with online and further conversations.  Because of the use of social media in many ways, some people are actually creating much deeper connections with people that have similar interests.

I agree that there is unregulated material online, which is actually a negative and a positive.  People are not having to wait for someone else to allow them to have a voice.  If you want to write a book, you do not have to get the okay from a publisher, you just write a book.  My blog is totally “unregulated”; does that mean it has no value?  In fact, this article I am talking about is posted online.  Does it have value because it was posted on a site where other people probably filtered it before it was posted?  There are a lot of things that I disagree with, and luckily, I am able to offer a differing perspective.

The other idea that the the Internet is an “unsafe” environment is also one that is basically jumping to one side of the fence.  Would you believe me if I told that you only good things happen on the Internet?  There is good and bad.  It depends on where you are looking and what you are looking for, but are we really helping kids by ignoring that it exists? What do you see the majority of kids do when they leave a high school class? What i have seen many students do is grab their phones and check what is happening with others (many adults do the same thing when walking out of a meeting or even during a meeting).  If the Internet is as unsafe as the author alludes to, do we do students any favours when we do not help them navigate those murky waters?

Interestingly enough, before I started to write this post, I googled the author and I was led to the school’s twitter account.  The account is mostly used for promotion of the school, yet I had found one of the tweets to be of particular interest.  They shared the following quote from Henry Ward Beecher:

“A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.”

If we got rid of a library in a school, people would be outraged that you are taking away information away from students, yet kids often hold the biggest library in the world in their pocket and schools ban them from using it in the classroom.  Is there something wrong with that picture?

The UN has actually declared the Internet as a human right, yet many still deny kids the opportunity to have access to it unless it is on their terms.  If we are denying that in schools, and the UN has declared it a human right, what does that say?

The one thing that I adamantly agree with the author on is the importance of relationships that teachers create.  She illustrates the notion that you may not be able to remember a “technology”, but you will also remember a moment with a teacher.  Agreed.  But on the other side of this, if we think of teaching as not just K-12, but going up to post-secondary, we seem to connect with students less and less.  Many high school teachers have easily over a 100 students a semester, and many of them for a short amount of time in a day.  My best connections in high school were not my teachers, but my coaches.  I spent a lot of time with them and they got to know me on a much more personal level and I woke up to be a part of that team environment where I felt valued, not to get to my grade 12 english course.

Universities are usually much worse  in the “relationship department” and it was rare that any of my professors knew my name, let alone anything about me.  I was a number in university to many of my professors, and as many, if they were just going to post a PowerPoint online that they were going to just share in class, why show up?  If we really do not want teaching to become obsolete, relationships will always be at the core, but we need to really look at this at every level of school.  We also need to look at the ways technology gives our students opportunities now that we probably wouldn’t have dreamed of as kids.

Do I think teachers are obsolete? Absolutely not.  But our view of teaching and learning has to change and continuously evolve.  Relationships will always be the foundation of good schools, but if kids think we have no clue about the world we all live in, how deep will those relationships be?

At the end of the article, the author states the following:

 What is a constant though, is the teacher in the classroom who across the world at this very moment and tomorrow morning will be putting the needs of their young people first, finding the best fit to ensure that everyone achieves more than they ever dreamed possible.

If we don’t help kids connect to the entire world, not just information, but to people, are we not limiting the opportunities for these dreams to become reality?  There are more opportunities for our students, not just in their future, but right now, then we could have ever envisioned.

When we don’t help our students connect to those opportunities for learning and the experiences that they can have, then we are doing them a disservice.