I love technology and have welcomed it into the classroom. No doubt it will have a profound impact in the classroom in the months and years ahead, but my own concern is that we not embrace it simply for the sake of technology, but to use it as a tool to help us achieve what we could not without it.
I have seen kindergarten children cry and fight over the opportunity to play games on the computer. Are they learning something? Perhaps, but I wonder if what they are learning is something that will one day be marketable, or will make them better human beings. I have also seen middle school students in very expensive reading labs with highly sophisticated software, use those tools primarily to play games and stay entertained. Hardly a good use of the tools.
In the past American children have been at the head of the pact, working with better ideas to make them more innovative as we provided the world with a plethora of great inventions, hugely successful technologies and a very long list of noble laureates. However, the game is quickly changing.
I was in Vietnam a few years ago and the sense of excitement there was palpable. After more than a thousand years of war, they are finally at peace and they realize they can have what the people in the West have… if they just work at it hard enough. Their pace is astonishing. Everywhere you look you see people working, building, learning and growing. There is little doubt that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the future, and the same can be said, of course, for China and India, where the same motivation exists on a much larger scale.
It took us 97 years to progress from the first telephone to the first cell phone. The explosion of of cell phones since their invention in 1973 has been remarkable and service providers have been only too eager to make the investment in infrastructure the world over to be able to provide cell service from the skyscrapers of New York City to the most remote goatherd on the backside of the Sahara.
My point here is that technology works in an odd way compared to other ways of learning. Even the most backward of countries will not have to go through a hundred years of telephone development to catch up. The learning curve can be measured in weeks rather than years, and our advantage is gone shortly after the provider agreements are signed.
How much longer can we lead the world in these technology development especially when our competition is so powerfully motivated? That is hard to predict, but what we must recognize is that we desperately need to be the very best at using technology to its fullest potential. What excites me is technologies potential to engage students and capture not only their imagination, but also their inner desire to learn and grow. If we can tie into those innate desires and match them to a curriculum that allows students to work at their own pace and we could be onto something truly significant.