A couple of recent posts and articles got my attention this morning as I was looking for things to do besides . . . you know . . . actually working and together they really got me thinking again about our roles as teachers.
The first was an article by game guru Marc Prensky on the George Lucas Foundation Edutopia site that talks about adopting and adapting. We’ve all been down the road he’s talking about with tech integration – the whole dabbling, old things in old ways, old things in new ways and new things in new ways concept.
But Marc does a great job of arguing for a much more aggressive push for new things. Even old things in new ways is not good enough.
So, let’s not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more. And let’s do it quickly, so the twenty-second century doesn’t catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone.
What caught my eye to begin with were his comments on the use of video games and simulations as part of instruction. He suggests that these are great for learning but when you really think about it, good teachers have been using simulations for a very long time. I am convinced that modern versions such as Making History, Stop Disasters and Wii games go way beyond the kinds of paper and pencil sims of the past.
But Marc’s point makes sense. We really need to start thinking about new things, not just old things in new ways. And as I read through my Twitter messages and other teacher connections, I see ways that it is beginning to happen with online science fairs, job-related learning and nanotechnology work with outside experts.
What’s scary is that old things in old ways are still very prevalent. I overheard a 6th grade student recently tell her mother that she hoped “that we’re not going to read from the textbook again. We’ve done that three days in a row.”
Doug Johnson of Blue Skunk fame posted a comment from Tom Ross as they discussed why video games should be a part of education. With what seems to be a bit of frustration, Tom makes a great point:
Our educational community is choosing to live in the 19th century and cannot adapt to the world our students live in. We choose not to walk beside them, coach them and transform them into responsible users of all media. We are too busy with our own world to think about theirs. Let’s face it, our educational community is uncomfortable with their world. Overhead projectors are still one of the most important purchases by media specialists, but only so because our teachers demand them. In this we fail. We fail to text, we fail to blog, we fail to WOW and many of us don’t have a clue about what I just said.
We are doing our kids a disservice when all we do is make them read from textbooks, when we are comfortable with the status quo, uncomfortable with change and when we fail to plan for new things.