Robert Dillon, Director of Innovative Learning, School District of University City
Over the last few months, there is been a trend in language around education technology. The trend is the use of the term learning technology as a substitute for education technology. Though subtle, it is a shift that allows me to continue to be bullish on the potential of technology to positively influence learning. Learning technology has the purpose of supporting the needs of all learners where education technology is designed to perpetuate the system. Beyond the language shift, there are seven other reasons to stay positive about learning technology.
1. There is a reason why consumption devices cost less than creation devices. In pure economic term, there is value placed on the worth of an item. Computers that allow students to log onto email, watch videos, and passively gather knowledge are becoming a commodity while the feature-rich devices that allow students to design and showcase their creativity continue to grow in their ability to support modern learning. As long as we see a steady and growing need for these devices, we can remain bullish on learning technology. (The good news is that the cost for both types of devices continues to decline where more students have greater access.)
2. Learning technology allows us to answer basic questions with more efficiency than ever which give us more time to build understanding. Learning that connects ideas, makes things clear, and allows students to transfer their learning into new spaces is ideal. We should definitely continue to ask questions, but we shouldn’t be spending time on questions that we can answer with the collective wisdom of the online brain. As more classrooms spend more time on making connections, we will find that the learning technology is ready and waiting for them to share their understanding.
3. We need quality video, and students are amazing content creators. This realization also has me bullish on technology. When we create space and time for students to produce video, we are building a meaningful skill.
Learning technology has the purpose of supporting the needs of all learners where education technology is designed to perpetuate the system
Every school district, Fortune 500 company, and non-profit need quality video content. If every student can start showcasing their learning in video form, we can build these needed skills. This requires us to use the learning technology in our schools and in the pockets of students as well.
4. Digital kindness and love require practice. We talk about digital citizenship, but it goes beyond this, and it really means practicing kindness and love in online spaces. It is the role of educators to give students time and practice in this space. Students need to feel the power of lifting up ideas and supporting amazing causes. They need to recognize hardship and react in a positive way. These are the traits of those that are being productive in the online space. Can we build this in students?
5. Design trumps skills we will in the medium term hand to robots. Is coding a robot skill? Are we training students on skills that we are almost ready to hand over to computers and robots? Teaching design is a lasting skill. Teaching design infused with technology is a skill in demand. How can we best provide space and time for growing a designer’s mindset instead of working on specific skills that could become commodities in the future economy. Stay bullish on design.
6. Mobile learning can democratize learning. Without information access, students are competing uphill in our modern economy. Today’s learning economy requires the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn in quicker and quicker sprints. The only way that this is possible is through easy access to information. Having the best data and accurate answers that comes from the collective wisdom of the global learning brain can make or break student success. Throughout the world, this means more mobile learning. The phone is and will be the primary source of access for millions, and we need to make sure that all of our communication and information delivery is ready to be consumed through these devices. As the saturation of mobile technology continues into more economically stressed areas, the opportunity for learning technology to impact in a positive way grows.
7. Telling story in a noisy world requires a multimedia approach. The noise of screens fill our lives. The flow of information continues at a pace that is breaking us down as humans, both physically and mentally. It is also causing a fog that inhibits important information from making it on the radar. Learning technology has the opportunity to build the skills that students need to make sure that their message, their design, and their creation can break through the noisy, attention grabbing marketing that consumes so many of us. Students need the skill of storytelling, and they will need learning technology to build these skills to a place of mastery.
It is easy to see the negative impacts of technology on schools and society as they are amplified by media reports. Deeper into the conversation though lies hope that learning technology will play a role in growing the skills that students need to be effective leaders and agents of change in a modern workforce.