Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Think Star Trek: Next Generation- Technology as an Accelerator

I don't admit this often but there was a time in my life that I didn't miss an episode of Star Trek: Next Generation. Just for the record, before the judgments begin- I didn't have a Trekie costume nor did I ever go to a convention. This admiration is way before I had decided to be a teacher but the idea of holograph rooms, telaportation, and all the gadgets that went along with planet exploration kept my attention week after week. My "hay day" with being enamored with the show was circa early to mid 1990's. I think back to that time and see how real some of those innovative gadgets on that show really are today. For example:

  • Augmented reality and holograph technology is here. It's being used in the classroom to pull students in, to give visuals that have never been available before in 3D/4D ability (for instance http://elements4d.daqri.com)
  • Wearable technology is here; the weirdness level will become less weird and the price point will continue to drop. We will see more and more of the population, student and beyond, talking into the watch on their arm or blinking to see incoming emails, texts, or videos. Are we all going to be like "Data"?
  • While telaportation for humans isn't here, with the use of Skype, Google Hangouts, and FaceTime we can communicate with each other in real-time meetings. With the very recent invent of Periscope and Meerkat we can also be a part of events anywhere in the world in real-time. It's not telaportation but it's getting there.
What does all this mean? Technology is an accelerator- in life and in the classroom. In twenty or so years since I watched Star Trek: Next Generation in an almost non-believable sense of futuristic nonsense, we are seeing those novelties come to fruition. For many of us, the greatest benefit of technology is that it allows us to get more done in a shorter amount of time- not in a lazy sense of "I don't have to work as hard" but in the sense of "I can focus on other things that I never could before" way.

Technology in an accelerator in terms of flipped learning. Students can watch videos and take pre-assessments as homework the night before a new unit and teachers can spend more time working one-on-one with the students in the midst of processing. This approach takes a day of instruction away because it is done at home and allows teachers to have more flexible time to meet curriculum needs.

Technology is an accelerator in terms of the amount and path of learning for our students. We give students topics for research and with a few key strokes they are on their way to discovering insurmountable amounts of information. They then start narrowing down their topic of choice and quickly curate all that information into usable data for the lesson at hand. What once meant going to the library, seeking the card catalog, perusing a few pages of several books, going back to the card catalog, and repeating now has been streamlined because of "one stop shopping" of research due to the Internet. Technology allows students to dig more efficiently. 

Technology is an accelerator in terms of assessment. Software and apps have intricate algorithms built into them that allows teachers to gather data quickly and often to assess student understanding. Teachers now have the ability to personalize learning more than ever before because of this capability.

Technology is an accelerator in terms of communication. In my entire k-12 experience I never once contacted one of my teachers to ask them a question outside of the school day. E-mail didn't exist, teachers didn't give out their home phone numbers, and the culture was different. Today, technology allows teachers, parents, and students to be in more constant contact (for better or worse) to meet the individual students needs in real-time (or at least in much sooner time) than ever before.

I found this quote on Twitter via Fishtree Education this morning and it inspired this blog: "Curriculum is the road, pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator, passion is the gas, student learning is the destination." I like the overarching attitude about education indicated in this quote.