My 34 years as a secondary English teacher, as a well as working as a professor of students studying to be secondary English teachers has given me a unique perspective on our educational system. I know what people are like in the system, and I know what people are like who are joining the system. As an observer, I do not see our young teachers entering the system as many are expecting them to be. I love my students. They are bright and enthusiastic and they know content, as all recently educated students should. They are not however, the rising wave of technology integrating educators expected by many to take our students and our system through the 21st century. I often hear that, as the new crop of teachers enters the system, the older “burned-out” teachers will retire. This will allow the newer tech-savvy teachers to integrate technology into the system and all will be right with the world. What a crock that is.
Students entering college are a product of our secondary system. We are producing FaceBook-Savvy students with technology skills that amount to texting and downloading music. Those are not even skills learned in school, but mostly self-taught. Schools frown on texting, ban social media, and discourage listening to recorded music. When students arrive at colleges they are not all the Tech-savvy geeks that most people seem to think they are. They know more about some technologies than their parents, but what measure of mastery is that? Many of their professors are at best Power Point proficient or at least overhead experts. Obviously, this is not true of all college professors, but it may be true of more than most people would expect. Life-long learning is a goal to which many educators aspire for their students, but many do not model it in reality. It is more a case of do as I say, not as I do.
I to believed that youth was the answer to solving the slow movement of technology integration of education. With my involvement in Social Media I considered myself an exception. Considering my age and my awareness of technology beyond Power Point and Email, as well as my immersion in social Media I was way ahead of those other old folks. I was a believer and a supporter of the digital natives as opposed to the digital immigrants. The whole idea of digital natives and digital immigrants implied that the immigrants would die off (not literally) and the natives would take over the system. But alas, computers entered the system in the eighties and we are still talking about integrating Technology into education in 2010. (30 years, if you don’t have a calculator) When will the natives take over from the dying immigrants and save the system? It is not happening.
There are no natives or immigrants. There are only people who learn differently. Social Media has not arrived to change the world of education. I have two daughters who have grown up with Technology and are quite adept in its use. I often overlook the fact that my wife and I are educators who have always used technology and have modeled that for our girls for their lifetime. They are constantly using technology to learn. They are not typical, so that takes my personal family experience out of the mix of what one would expect from today’s students. Technology is not being modeled in schools. The internet is filtered for both students and teachers. Mobile learning devices are banned in many schools. Students are often not allowed use of their personal laptops in schools. Social Media is not taught as a tool for learning and collaboration, but addressed as a safety issue to be feared and avoided. This is not true in every school, but it is true in more schools than it should be.
We cannot wait for the digital natives to arrive and move the immigrants out of power to lead us into the future. There are no natives and immigrants, only learners. Some employ technology and some don’t. As Technology advances, as it inevitably does, the skills needed to learn and grow will need to be adapted. Teachers waiting for the new generation to take up that challenge will be disappointed. Using technology skills to learn, collaborate, communicate, and create are not in our biological makeup. If we are not teaching these skills, they do not happen. Today’s teachers need to be technology literate. They need not be experts, but at least they need to be aware of what will be required of their students insofar as technology skills required to compete in a technological society.
Please feel free to comment.
This is the video link that prompted this post. http://edupln.ning.com/video/nativeimmigrant-versus