Monday, June 10, 2013

Only in Education

Ted Lai, an Education Development specialist with Apple, made the following comment at MacWorld|iWorld 2013 this past January: "Education is the only profession in which one can say 'no' to technology." Interesting. And, both ponderous and perplexing. I'd bet all doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital are on board with technological changes. Same for the engineers employed by General Motors, Boeing, and United Airlines. But, in education we typically have schools with a dichotomy between those who do and those who don't. Pick a school and you are likely to see the following: One mathematics class is taught by a teacher who uses graphing calculators, computer software, and, possibly, iPads. Next door, the same course is taught by a teacher who doesn't allow the use of technology of any kind. How is this possible? Part of the problem is curriculum. Technology allows many more mathematical topics to be explored, and more interesting problems to be solved. If schools allow the dichotomy, and most do, the curriculum has to remain the same as it has been for decades.

Here's an example: Last week I covered the final exam in a calculus course for a colleague of mine. She reminded me that no calculators were allowed on the exam. So, I gave the exam which was essentially the same exam that a teacher in 1813 could have given her students. Why do we continue to cater to the lowest common denominator, the teacher who doesn't allow technology?

Moreover, with the introduction of iPads into schools, the dichotomy grows more. Where it used to be primarily in mathematics where arguments over whether or not to allow technology - calculators - in the classroom raged, now it's in history, English, language, and art.

Change requires leadership. Our principals, department chairs, and district administrators need to lead teachers into the 21st century. They need to get into the classrooms of those teachers using technology to enhance education, observe what's going on, and support them. These are the teachers that should be celebrated and recognized for advancing education.

More later, after I attend iTeach at the San Domenico School in San Anselmo, CA later this month. This is a great conference hosted by a school that has committed to removing the dichotomy totally.