When did the stone age flintknappers actually realize that their skills had become obsolete? Do you think they looked around at the folks who were working on making a hotter fire, shake their heads and say, “We have to emphasize stone flaking and drawing pictures of our hunts on the walls of caves. This playing with fire will only get us burnt–glowing coals, UGH!”? And did they think: “All of our young men and women must show proficiency in the ways of following the paths of the animals and the seasons of the good plants!” “If we don’t manage to teach our youth how to better do these things, we will continue to see a decline in the herds!”? “Everyone must join us in this race to the edge of the cliff!” How long did these people fool themselves until somebody realized that using tools that broke easily and took days to make did not make sense any more? That controlling the animals and helping the plants grow in the same place each year made things easier? Obviously the transition from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age happened, but somewhere in the interim there were groups of people that did not make the transition and suffered in the competition with their neighbors. I think we are at that point now. So much of what we have our students do in school is obsolete. Why do we continue to insist our students spend hours learning and practicing skills that new technologies have made obsolete? School is not about just learning information any more. It is about using information, collaborating to solve problems, and experimenting to create new understanding. The tools we have today in our pockets make much of what we have done in the past century, well, things of the past. If our students can do our assignments and pass our tests with out so much as doing any more than “Googling” the answers, we are not preparing them for the world in which they live. We need to embrace the social tools of today, give up the stage, and embrace the new role that teachers must fill today. Every revolution in history eventually favored those who embraced change. It is time to move on, throw away our need to hold on to what we know, and work toward creating the next generation of education.
Read the headlines and you find that politicians are resigning because they have a shirtless picture on the Internet tied to a false biographical sketch. Teachers are being put on leave for posts critisizing administrators or being tagged in photos with alcholic beverages. Student are being suspended for making disparaging remarks about teachers as well as for making threats or statements considered as bullying towards their fellow students. My focus for this post is not to discuss whether or not teachers have a right to post what they want, or about whether what students say in the privacy of their own homes is actionable at school, that debate would be mute moot if people would just think before they pushed the button that publishes a post on a social network. Privacy does still exist. You can choose to keep anything private. The key is keep it to yourself! For goodness sakes, if you want to have deniability do not put it on the Internet or send it in a message via a cell phone. We need to do a better job of modeling digital citizenship. What is scary is opponents of the use of social networking and cell phones in schools are gaining traction because of a few isolated incidents. Some of us have fought too hard to bring the power of social networking into school to let a few incidents roll back our progress. Instead of keeping these tools out of our classrooms, we need to integrate them where useful and guide our students in acceptable use. We need to open our labs in the evenings and invite parents in to dispell the myths and show them how to monitor their student’s use of social media. Teach parents to connect with their student’s school and each other to discuss education and student engagement. Even if we wanted to, we could not keep our students from using cell phones or social media. We might as well be involved with their use of these tools. We also have to realize that our use will be monitored as well. Don’t put anything on the Internet you would not want your grandma or some future employer to see!
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