I’m spending today and tomorrow at a conference in Melbourne on technology in education. Normally our IT teacher would go to this sort of thing, but she’s on our year 10 camp this week so it fell to me to go. I’m quite happy about this because, if you know me, you’ll know that I’m definitely a technology person.
The divide between school and the rest of life is quite large for our current students. Their lives are lived in the digital realm, they are always connecting to others in some way, and they have an immeasurable amount of information available at their fingertips 24/7. Their lives are reliant on technology. Then, when they get to school, they get told to put it all away, that it is inappropriate at school. At my school we ban phones and personal laptops, and the students don’t often use computers unless it’s an IT class (although I buck this trend!) or VCE study periods in the libray. I’m fairly confident that this is a general trend (save for a few schools). And it is even more true for regional schools, such as the one I’m in.
I understand this reasoning in terms of students getting off task. It is a fine balance between allowing digital freedom, and helping students to stay on task and be productive. I want to help students realise the power and potential in their technologies, but also not let them waste time in my classes on things like Facebook, YouTube and live chat. While these things can be used for good, most teenagers use them as social tools, not educational tools. Shouldn’t we teach them to use them productively?
We need to prepare students to be life long learners, and in this day and age that means being technology literate. It is not enough to type something into Google. You need to know how to be a critical thinker, and understand how to sift through information to find credible information. You need to be able to decipher fact from opinion. I don’t think we do a good enough job of teaching that skill.
This is not a criticism of teachers in general, because I think a significant number of teachers don’t know how to do this themselves. This is why we need to place more of an emphasis on training our educators to teach these critical thinking skills to the next generation. (I could go on an entire rant here about ‘current affair’ programs where they present opinion as fact, and where people are unable to distinguish between the two and think critically about the content).
Let me now talk about another aspect of education. It should not be about memorisation. This does not equal education. Memory fades, skills of ‘how to learn’ do not fade so easily. I have a brilliant medium term memory. I can recall almost everything I have heard or read in the last month, but in terms of long term sustainability, that is not particularly helpful. Memorisation of facts does not equip you to live your life and continue to learn in varying contexts.
Give your students a test, then give them the same test 2 weeks later without notice and I guarantee you’ll understand what I mean.
Technology is such a powerful tool. I just hope that we can use it more effectively in education and prepare the next generation to know how to live and learn in a dynamic and constantly changing world.
Now for a list of awesome/fun/helpful sites I was exposed to today:
ietherpad – real time multiple person document updates
StoryBird – free online storybook publishing site, complete with artwork
Glogpedia – Very cool collaborative blog site you create yourself (great samples available)
Museum Box – Honestly I haven’t had a chance to check this one out, the wifi kept dying. Ironic at a tech conference!
Free Rice – Very cool website where you answer questions and they give free rice to desperate people all over the world. Lots of subjects available.
Qwiki – How did I not know about this?! A brilliant site that give you a multimedia summary of any topic you desire!
Toondoo – Make your own cartoons
Voki – Make your own voiced avatars
Blabber – Similar to Voki
If It Were My Home – A great site that compares any country with any country.
Poll Everywhere – Create your own free web poll in 30 seconds.
There will be more websites to come.