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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Slow down, you move too fast...

These are the lyrics to Simon and Garfunkel's famous The 59th Street Bridge Song. Most think the title is "Feelin' Groovy" but like most S&G songs, the title makes you think a little more about the context of the song rather than simply giving it to you. You have to slow down and listen to each lyric and allow their harmonies to take you to their world.

These lyrics came into my head last night as I was participating in the fast moving stream of #edchat. The topic was "With the development of tech in our society, how prepared are educators?" My first reaction was why are we worried about pace? Why do we care how fast everyone is acclimating to technology inside or outside of the classroom? This is not why we teach. We teach, or at least I do, to provide students with fundamental skills that they can take with them beyond my classroom. I give them adaptability skills and present them with a variety of challenges in Language Arts daily. I move at a different pace than most of my colleagues, but I make sure I hit all of the standards and never move on until they are mastered.

So why are we concerned about pace or using "new" tools before we have mastered the ones we already have? I don't want my students to move to the next skill set before they have mastered their current set. As teachers we model this daily, yet we are so anxious to find the next tech tool or create the next buzzword in education. At this pace we are spreading ourselves too thin and short-changing our students. It is not the way to integrate technology or 21st century learning skills.

As a technology specialist I want to allow teachers to move at their own pace and allow them to use whichever learning tool suits them best. To other technology specialists, I would suggest that you present these slower moving colleagues with some ideas as you move ahead at a much different pace. Don't come at them aggressively or arrogantly, just say, "I have some ideas that may or may not help your lessons. Give them a try and if you need help, let me know." Give a collegial nod, and walk away.

If your colleagues use PowerPoint effectively and the kids are learning from it then let them go. Let them check it off as technology integration! Don't be one of the Tech-jocks and scoff at their slow uptake on the tech wave. Embrace them! Give them a short, resounding golf clap for stepping out of their comfort zone. And remember, not everyone teaches like you; just as our students don't all learn the same way.

Educators should not pace education at the same pace at which technology moves. It is far too fast, and too sudden. Technology is old when you buy it, however, content and skill sets have been thriving, although evolving, for years. When we combine the two tracks we can create a dynamic classroom environment. If we focus on a few tech tools a year and evolve those tools each year or each semester we will be giving our students a rich, dynamic curriculum.

Let's focus on what we have in education and master it before we move on to the next trend. The iPhone is a good example of how we should all pace our classrooms. Each year Apple comes out with a new iPhone. They expand and evolve the previous version while keeping the core elements in tact. They add a little each year without racing or worrying about what others are doing. They are confident with the product they have and understand that they can always make it better. And, last time I checked they do pretty well (save for that minor antenna issue).

Take this approach and pace in your own classroom this year. Allow your colleagues time to learn, evolve, and master before you start shouting WIKI! MOODLE! GOOGLE! DIIGO! TWITTER! in their face. As my uncle once wrote in my 21st Birthday card, "Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint."

Ba da, Ba da, Ba da, Ba da...Feelin' Groovy.

Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Director of Social Media Strategy and Marketing @Edutopia, edcamp organizer
Staff

Andy,

While I agree with your points, I wonder that by teachers keeping at their own pace with technology adoption they distance themselves from what technology their students are actually using (thus losing a chance to engage them). As a student, I always could relate to those teachers that at least knew about the technology I used (they didn't need to be whizzes at them). Interested in hearing your thoughts.

Cheers,
Elana

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
Blogger

I literally was JUST thinking this on the train ride back down to South Philly today. There are SO many things I am excited to do with my students and my staff, but I am happy taking baby steps. We'll 'get there.' If I rush to do too much, I will risk accomplishing nothing.

If we are to effectively and properly integrate tech, we need to be deliberate and thoughtful about it.

David Orphal's picture
David Orphal
Introduction to Education and Cyber-High teacher from Oakland, CA

When I read the title of your article, I found myself expecting an entirely different thesis.

Please, don't get me wrong, this is not a dig on your piece.

On the contrary, one thing I continue to ponder about schools adopting new technology is how much our new technology is merely trying to do the same old job with more bells and whistles:

PowerPoint = Overhead Projector = writing and erasing on the board
Wikipedia = Encyclopedia
Google = Card Catalog at the Library
Grading Programs = Grade books
Websites = letters or phone calls home = visiting with parents face-to-face
E-book = books
Enhanced E-Books = book + film strip + worksheet
Social Network = seeing friends live and in person

While each of these technological improvements have defiantly added to the connivence of school/learning processes, what educators haven't spent enough time asking what skills and knowledge are no longer important in a digital age? One might argue that cursive writing is going the way of morse code.

What skills and knowledge are going to stick around, but in a new form? Perhaps the memorization of facts will also become obsolete. "If stuff is on Google, why stuff it in your head?" But then again, one needs to know enough about a topic to type the right question into ask.com. Also, communicating one's ideas isn't going away, but blogging may replace the essay in the coming decade.

What skills and knowledge were emerging in the 20th century that will be even more important in the 21st? I would submit understanding and being able to determine the bias of a source.

Finally, what skills and knowledge have we not been teaching or learning before but are going to become crucial for the well-educated person of 2020 or 2030?

I argue that these questions need our attention as we grapple not only with how we will apply new technology to our classrooms, but also with how new technology may be changing the definitions of teaching and learning.

Andrew Marcinek's picture
Andrew Marcinek
Director of Technology & EducatorU.org Co-founder, Boston, MA
Blogger

Elana,

I agree with you, however, technology (meaning the actual tools: laptops, mobile devices, etc.) are only one element in the classroom. At the core of the classroom is the content, skills, and assessments. If a teacher decides they want to dismiss all wires, cords, and routers from their classroom, yet still present the content in a fresh, dynamic manner, then we are still making progress. The same teacher who decides to incorporate technology feverishly, but lacks a dynamic, progressive way of presenting the content is doing the students a disservice.

Somewhere in the middle there is a dynamic teacher who can bring both sides of this coin together and make it stand upright. A teacher who can present, teach, and assess content in a variety of ways and blend in new technologies is what we should strive for. Also, this teacher should be aware and accepting of new technologies and not pretend like they don't exist. Plus, as teachers, we should aim to reinvent and update the way we present our content each year whether technology is involved or not.

Again, this piece was intended to slow down everyone. I sometimes feel that we are trying to incorporate technology at a pace that does not allow time for mastery and manipulation, and does not work for everyone. If we preach differentiation in the classroom, we must do the same for our colleagues who are still testing the waters, but well aware that technology is present and here to stay...until it changes again :)

Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your words!

Andrew Marcinek's picture
Andrew Marcinek
Director of Technology & EducatorU.org Co-founder, Boston, MA
Blogger

[quote]

While each of these technological improvements have defiantly added to the connivence of school/learning processes, what educators haven't spent enough time asking what skills and knowledge are no longer important in a digital age? One might argue that cursive writing is going the way of morse code.

What skills and knowledge are going to stick around, but in a new form? Perhaps the memorization of facts will also become obsolete. "If stuff is on Google, why stuff it in your head?" But then again, one needs to know enough about a topic to type the right question into ask.com. Also, communicating one's ideas isn't going away, but blogging may replace the essay in the coming decade.

.[/quote]

David,

Thank you for your comment and your insights. Thank you for adding something that I failed to mention (quoted above) in my piece. The question should not be what new tools should we integrate to the classroom, but first, what skills can we bypass or retire in the 21st century. Although I still find cursive handwriting a necessary skill (letter sounds, phonetics, syntax, etc.). Plus you need to write in cursive when you sign any major ETS testing waiver declaring that you did not cheat. I feel that once we reassess our content and evaluate what we can do without and what we need to update, then we can begin to incorporate technology or new tools to assist in the learning process.

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