From Dinosaurs to Dolphins: Technological Evolution in Education

Dinosaur by shvmoz, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  shvmoz 
After watching a recent episode of Terra Nova  my son observed “it would be so cool if there were still dinosaurs roaming around!”  Of course, my response was, really, you would like to be spending your days in flight or fight response avoiding man eating dinosaurs? He agreed that would likely be pretty scary, maybe it’s better to leave them to the museums and science fiction shows. This got me thinking, why are we so slow to evolve and discard those dinosaurs in our classrooms, the antiquated audio visual aids which do nothing but get our blood pressure up and are far better left in museums and history books? If biologists only focused on the past, they would never discover new and exciting biological species like the Barrunda Dolphin, discovered this fall off the coast of Australia. Last week in EC&I 831, Stephen Downes  talked about the need to become networked educators and consequently discover new  roles as a teacher. Such new roles as collector, curator, alchemist, need to be considered in the search for this new species of teacher.   Of course all of this is predicated on the discovery and utilization of  new technology tools in and out of the classoom.

Last week I stumbled upon I Love Ed Tech Blog  which is the Blog for the Simple K-12 website. It has some great posts including the June 2011 post “17 Signs Your Classroom is Behind the Times”.  Below are 6 of the 17 which particularly resonated with me:

  • Your students turn in their homework on printed paper…instead of digitally.  It’s hard to believe that I still have English teaching colleagues who are collecting hardcopies and not using digital submission tools such as Turn it In  which educate students on plagiarism, proper referencing, and provide peer editing and revision tips.
  • You still have chalk.  Or a Dry Eraser. It’s exciting for me, who just happens to be allergic to both chalk and the residue from dry erase, that tools like smart boards eliminate any sort of chemical exposure and reduce consumable expenditures in the school budget!
  •  You try to pull up a web resource on your computer to show the class and you receive a “This website has been blocked” message. As an administrator, I know which of my teachers are developing PLN’s – they are the ones coming to me to ask IT to unblock Youtube videos and Blogs – heck, last week I had to phone to get them to unblock the sample Blog I created for an ELA class!
  • You don’t find at least one thing to call the IT department about every week. See previous point!
  • You spend most of your class time lecturing students… rather than getting them collaborating and learning from each other. Arriving in the staffroom for coffebreak with a bad case of laryngitis often is a symptom of nagging educational disease “Sage on the Stageitis.”
  • You create more content than your students do. I often wonder why it is that so many of us as teachers are working harder than our students? No wonder our profession has trouble with teacher retention. We have do less and create more opportunities for our students to take charge of their learning.
  • Your students aren’t teaching you something new (likely about technology) at least once a day. My most connected teachers are the ones who frequently pop by my office to share an exciting technology tidbit just taught to them by a student which invigorates them and supports the learning of their students. Good things are happening in their classrooms.

So , I think maybe I would like another role added to Stephen Downes’ list, that of scientist. I want to discover new species of teachers and learners, my own Barrunda dolphins by encouraging my staff to embrace a blended instructional approach and discover some new habitats of education! It absolutely can happen – and if you need a little inspiration from the biological world, for your viewing enjoyment check out “Cool, Rare, and New Weird Animals/Species 2011.”

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18 thoughts on “From Dinosaurs to Dolphins: Technological Evolution in Education

  1. lorenaleibel says:

    Wow…those 6 signs should be posted in every staffroom in every school! Sure makes a person think!
    I look forward to your blog posts every week, very interesting and thought provoking!

    • kjehman says:

      Thanks, Lorena. The entire list on the ILoveEDTech Blog was really thought provoking. You I vividly remember serving as a pilot teacher for students to use the internet (dial up modem!!) in 1995 – now it is hard to imagine ours students not having access. Where will we be in 2015?

  2. Honni L says:

    Wow, was I ever relieved when I got to the end of the list that you posted. I have to admit that there are still a few items on the list that I have yet to overcome, but I can honestly say that I have succeeded in checking a few of them off. The one about white boards and chalkboards is still on my to-do list, but if I were to be honest, I guess that it is really up to the school division about when this one gets checked off. I am so proud to say that I know many teachers who are moving in this direction also. I look at the Grade 8 teacher in my school and she is definitely moving in the right direction and providing her students with many opportunities to learn how to use technology responsibly.

    • kjehman says:

      HI Honni, I would say that in many cases our middle years teachers are leading the pack in terms of integrating innovative technologies into their instruction and assessment practices. Unfortunatel most of the dinosaurs are hanging around highschools and for some very good reasons. 1. 100 hour curricula are impossible to get through so teachers often think it will be “sacrificing” time on task – one of my roles is to to make them comfortable with the notion of using technology to extent the time or instruciton as in the flipped classroom approach. 2. High schools are focused on outcomes based education, but more specically meeting standards which often means teaching to the test and only the test. This is a narrow way of thinking and has been slow to change, but we are definitely making progress!

  3. The blocking issue is still such a common sign these days. While in Australia, we tried to get some of the middle years students commenting on @gcouros’s students back in Alberta. George’s entire school district website was blocked at the school we were working at.

    And, I have seen this far too often locally – no wonder so many teachers are frustrated with technology.

    • mickpanko says:

      We had a PD session with four schools in attendance on Thursday last week and one group was focused on technology and the session ended up being a bust as the technology that the moderator had hoped to use was done. Experiences like this make it easy for people to question the usefulness of “new” technology and tools. Disappointing…

  4. kjehman says:

    Certainly this has been a common complaint from teachers in many school divisions. Until we can assure teachers that the access will be there and the bandwidth can accomodate their needs, it is hard to get buy in. As a teacher with experience in having the “perfect lesson” derailed by a blocked site, I get it!

  5. lmorhart says:

    I had read through that list earlier today and was also happy to say that I was able to check some of those off! Phew…but I still have room for improvement.

    Schools in our division are moving towards having 100% of our classrooms with SMART boards installed. We are getting closer and closer and this will soon be a reality. As much as I love my SMART board though, I still find uses for a white board! A chalk board on the other hand makes me cringe…there is still one in use in my school!

    Change happens slowly but I think this would be something useful to put up and get people thinking and talking about their practices and the practices of our schools.

  6. Indeed – there is always room for pens, paper, and whiteboard for “oldschool” scribbles and mutterings!

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