Shed your technology at the school house doors?

I sometimes forget just how dependent we are on technology.  Can you remember the days with your nose in a map trying to get somewhere?  What about looking up numbers in a telephone book?  Or my favorite — if you wanted to know something you went to the library — no asking GOOGLE!

Technology has changed our lives and I have to admit I can be annoyed with people who have their noses in their phones 24/7, text while they drive, have headphones in public places, and seem like whatever is dinging or buzzing on their phone is more important than human civility.A huge pet peeve of mine is when you have to repeat yourself because the person you are talking too is wrapped up in their phone and not really listening.

HOWEVER

As much as I might complain about technology — none of us, including me–would give-up that technology. Just as none of us would forego electricity or cars.   For all the warts technology has —  it has amazing benefits and capabilities.  I can look up anything…it reminds me to do things…is my alarm…music machine…camera…GPS…communication tool…wrapped into one device.  It is hard to imagine functioning without our technology.  I have literally seen people in panic mode when they lose their phone.  It is as essential to us as clothes for the body.

YET — today — in many public school settings we strip kids of their phones and all technology upon entering the school house doors.  In today’s technology rich world having your device(s) is a basic right as a student.   We can no longer attempt to stop kids from using technology we should instead embrace it in the classroom.  We should teach them how to use it appropriately in social settings.

We live and work in the information age with 24-hour connectivity — and to deny kids the internet is like imprisonment.  Schools have a responsibility to educate and prepare kids for the world we live in and they need the skills and knowledge to succeed.  We all use technology — we need it in almost every job.  We can no longer accept schools creating a technology desert in schools.

What should we see in schools today?

Here is my short list:

1.  Mobile-online courses — that kids can access anywhere at anytime.  They need the ability to work at their own pace.  These courses should be short — with regular feedback loops and discussion boards. They should be topical and entwine several subjects into one mini-course enhancing a supplementing what happens in the classroom.

2.  Gamefication of courses — the more the content is like a game the more kids will be engaged in the learning process.  Plain and simple — kids love games — adults love games — want kids to learn and be engaged — make it a game!

3.. E-books — I am tired of seeing kids with 45 pound backpacks that look like they are being deployed to some foreign country. Some of those kids look so weighed down I wonder how they can walk?  Tablets — laptops — phones shed all that weight.  All kids material should be electronic.

4.  Online collaborative learning — Collaborative environments whereby kids learn from each other and create new and exciting things.  So much of the internet is collaborative — so much of real life work is collaborative — why do we insist in schools kids be isolated?

5.  Usage of social media for learning — We can no longer ignore the power of social media.  Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc…. it is a powerful force and we need to use it to our advantage in the classroom.  Kids use and like social media for communication — if I was in the classroom teaching today how can you not take advantage of this awesome tool to keep kids and parents informed.

Our kids need practice with and exposure to technology to function in this ever-changing technology rich world.  Schools need to embrace the power of technology to enhance learning environments and prepare them for the future.  We have a moral obligation as educator to do this for kids.  Don’t let our old, worn-out rules prevent us from taking advantage all that technology has to offer.

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About James Herrholtz

Consultant, Teacher, Coach, Administrator for over 23 years. I have been a superintendent of schools, College Instructor, and worked at the Ohio Department of Education heading up the Division of Learning.
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