How Will Education Change Because of Technology?

The newest batch of PISA test scores is out. Alarmists are decrying that the sky is falling and the US is "losing it's competitive edge". Diana Ravitch paints a more optimistic picture saying that US test scores have been stagnant for decades and still the US has reigned as the global economic superpower for the last half century, surpasses the world in patent applications and, for the record, higher test scores don't correlate to higher economic output, democratic institutions or a better quality of life. So why chase these test scores as the ultimate indicator of success? When will reformers eventually accept that curricular changes cannot solve problems of poverty and income inequality or level the playing field with cultures that embrace "dragon parenting", cram schools and learning academies? How can US parents "compete" with such demographics when most US parents want their children simply to play and enjoy childhood?

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As interested parties grapple with this dilemma, I think technology is subtly rewriting the rules of "learning" behind the scenes in a way that making learning more accessible and equitable. I was very interested in the Horizon report's near and long term horizon of how technology will change our profession and we're seeing these start to happen.

Student Choice will Reduce Dropout Rates
Joshua Davis writes about how even the poorest of children can be incentivized to learn by choosing topics of interest to them. With tired curriculums that must be "slogged through" an element of student choice can be vital for retention. Some teachers pilot this with '20% Time' which means every fifth lesson providing time for students to learn about a topic of interest.

Free, Open Content will Make Textbooks Obsolete
Publishers can't be happy about this. But really, when you're charging upwards of 100$ a textbook to meet a mandated state curriculum, it's only a matter of time before teachers start accessing the treasure trove of readings and videos online. Also, textbooks are usually a pre-packaged, teacher proof curriculum, with tired questions at the end which are sanitized to prevent any real discussion of topics that matter. Are not readings from different sources and videos made from different people a kalideoscope of perspectives that remind us all of what it's like to be connected in this world?

Analytical Tools Will Create Personalized Curriculums
We've all used grade books, but whole programs like Khan Academy which combine content and asessement practices from beginning to mastery will help teachers tailor instruction to specific students instead of teaching to the middle. Such tools will help support learning outside of class and help devote more class time to inquiry based activities and learning with an end-goal in mind.

MOOC's Will Make Learning Accessible to All
Massive, open, online courses or (MOOCs) are only a few years old and the concept of offering college level courses to anyone with an internet connection has set off a chain reaction of universities moving their content for the world to not only see, but learn. The most notable are Coursera, edX, and Udacity. I think the most promising feature of these are that people don't need to be born into privilege to get a good education. The real hurdles to these are recognizing participation in MOOC's (and participation can waiver from many levels to dropping out) by a credential or certificate which holds the same stock as an actual university transcript.

The number of courses that are being offered are really the inspiration. After digging around on Coursera, I found a course on Next Generation Science standards, which our school is leaning towards adopting within two years. I signed up for it and the curriculum coordinator and many other science teachers at the school have done the same and will use this course as a PD discussion circle this spring. Here is a list of 75 classes for teachers and students.

Cheaper Hardware Will Force Teachers to Adapt
Technology prices are dropping, which means they will become more prominent. However, some teachers are resistance to change, being entrenched in decades of stagnation and passing fads in education. Is technology really another one or is it here to stay? California highlights the problems of not only procuring hardware, but teaching teachers (and whole districts) how to use it effectively. Just last fall, California embarrassingly recalled thousands of Ipads because students had allegedly "hacked" the devices so they could access all their social media sites. What the students actually did, was reinstall the machines original default settings, hence erasing all the fail safe locks on sites like Facebook. Hacking? I think not. 

Learning Communities Will Deliver PD Constantly
Before, we all had to attend our yearly conference to be reinvigorated with new teaching pedagogy, tech tools or content knowledge. Now, with a steady stream of teachers who are blogging, tweeting, and with the rise of educational conferences around the world, good teaching is increasingly becoming easy to access. Through chats, skype, and forums such as Edmodo, teachers can talk to others to share ideas, resources and learn about topics that their school is unable (or unwilling) to provide. Want to get more experience with PYP? Take a MOOC on it! Can't afford to go to the 21st century conference in Hong Kong in December? Follow #2lclhk on Twitter! On a personal level, this last one has made me grow so much as a teacher, especially over the last four years.  

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As the education debate rages and initiatives like "race to the top" and "no child left behind" continue to flat line, we must ask ourselves, are these the indicators that matter? In the meantime, we can provide interesting content and learning to our students, our children, and take advantage of the great resources that we as the world, are creating.


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