Sometimes I feel like a techno-dinosaur.
This semester I am teaching an undergraduate course titled Technology in the Classroom. My task is to expose these future K-12 educators to many of the current educational technologies that they might incorporate into their own future classrooms. But how many of today’s common digital technologies will still be around in three to four years, and what new tools will be available that don’t even exist today? The latest and greatest gadget or application often has a short shelf life and quickly fades away, and how easily we as educators can fall behind in trying to be “techo-withit.”
I recently visited an Apple Store in an upscale shopping center in St. Louis. Discovering a 4 terabyte external hard drive was quite a shock and a quantum leap from my original Apple IIe and its mighty 128 k RAM. Tera – that’s one followed by twelve zeros! It is akin to an ant contemplating Mt. Everest.
I used to pride myself on staying ahead in the educational technology game, engaging my middle school students in podcasting, digital video editing, wikis, and teleconferencing with scientists on the opposite side of the Earth. I asked one of the Apple Genius staff about a new option for publishing podcasts, since the mac.com option was no longer available. His response was “Hmm, that’s a good question. I will need to ask some of the others.” A few minutes later he returned with a grin on his face and said, “I asked them about mac.com accounts, and they all said that was a l-o-n-g time ago!”
Somehow, his response certainly didn’t make me feel very “withit.”
Today’s world of educational technology consists of cloud computing, QR codes, apps, mobile devices, and augmented reality – as seen in the 3-D image above. The NASA Mars Rover is visible only through the eye of my iPad, even though it appears to be parked on my office desk. This new technology is already being incorporated into art, history, and science classrooms by innovative and creative teachers – adding a 3-dimensional extension to traditionally 2-dimensional resources. Look for exciting things to come with this application.
It’s been said that nothing is more constant than change, and that is certainly true with educational technology. The wise teacher will avoid becoming too dependent upon specific technologies, tools, or platforms, as they vary and change with the needs of the users. What does not change is the need to avoid being distracted by the hype of the newest and fastest, and to always keep the focus on student learning, the curriculum, and the standards.
Simply put, it’s keeping the main thing the main thing.