We are in a hyper connected world. This is changing the way we read, write, interact, gather information, share ideas, and connect with one another. Anstey and Bull (2006) remind us that change is the only constant.
They state that “previously technology was either for communication or providing information. Now one piece of technology can fulfill both purposes” (p.14). Absolutely. Blogs, wikis, pinterest, Facebook, Twitter…these technologies provide information and provide possibilities for communication simultaneously. The literacies we use when we engage with these technologies is defined by our purposes. First, I’m viewing my friend’s Facebook post and then I’m tapping into her pinterest pins to learn more about how she designs her classroom. Then, I’m following a blog to learn about issues in the field of literacy and next I’m clicking on a link that sends me to the NY Times article on statistics about college.
The digital landscape is not only changing the way we gain information and communicate with one another, rightly so, it’s also changing the way we teach. Or it should be. Salman Khan advocates for changing the script–for flipping the classroom. To put content into video for students to view, review, and review again at their own pace. Leaving classroom time an opportunity to help students where they need it most. Having peers interact with one another to solve problems, analyze text, and ultimately humanize the classroom. Do you think video is reinventing education? How would this work for your students? What are the benefits? What are the costs?
Some argue that what’s changing in schools may be superficial rather than fundamental. Leander (2007) considers how “technologies are essentially social, and thus serve to constitute particular values, ideologies, preferred practices, power relations, social relations, and modes of learning” (p. 26). Leander looks at the production and organization of school space and time and in his research on wireless classrooms and the use of laptops where the technologies of schooling were largely left unchanged. Kahn might argue that the physical spaces of our classrooms are becoming more obsolete as we engage with students increasingly over digital spaces and that the 45 minute teaching blocks do not allow for repeated practice, student ownership, or enough collaborative possibilities–his site changes that. But what about the teacher as a critical part of the physical space? of the technology that is school?
As teachers in physical school spaces, how do we incorporate new technologies and new literacies into our teaching without simply responding to the latest “new” educational trend. Lankshear and Knoebel (2007) argue for what they call “new ethos stuff”–that is–”active collaboration and participation, leveraging collective intelligence via practices like eliciting user annotations, distributing and wilfully sharing expertise, decentering authorship, mobilizing information for relatedness, hybridization, and the like” (p. 20). The new ethos is about access and power and participation and the possibility that anyone can learn new information and share ideas. Want to learn how to play guitar, there are a myriad of videos and teaching tools online to do so? Want to find a recipe for the perfect pancakes? Voila. Want to write about the overtesting of children in public schools? You’ll have a captive audience.
What’s happening with technology is about literacy, teaching, learning, and schooling but it’s also about far more than that. Anstey and Bull (2006) urge us to consider the power of globalization in our increasingly technology-driven world. Teachers in Kenya can learn from teachers in New York via Skype. Teachers can gather ideas together through google docs and exchange best practices across the globe. Children can engage in experiments in LA and discuss the results with children in Taiwan.
In the video below, we see Digital Humanitarianism at work and how the earthquake in Haiti changed everything about how responders can reach people who need critical help immediately and in an on going way.