Is Technology Part of the Answer?

Dr. Stephen Murgatyrod posed the following question in ATA’s  Challenge Dialogue Technology and Learning Forum:

The key to this question is not technology, but pedagogy and curriculum – while we persist in demanding so many curriculum outcomes technology will be an “and also..” feature of the classroom. If we moved to a problem based approach to curriculum, then we could do much more with technology. Technology is part of the answer, but what isthe question?

I think one obvious questions is “What characteristics do we want our students to have when they become adults?”  Alberta Learning’s Inspiring Action on Education nicely lays out the characteristics of an educated Albertan, which I agree with and believe to be very forward thinking. However, not all believe that technology is part of the answer. A generic question such as the one I posed allows people to respond from their own particular worldview and does not challenge them to engage deeply in the profound societal changes occurring subtly and quickly around us.

Perhaps some more direct questions would be better to begin the conversation. Here are a few examples:

  1. Looking at the rapid increase in the way people and businesses engage and connect in the digital environments of social media, what will Social Responsibility mean in 21st century?
  2. Considering the read/write web is quickly evolving into web 3.0, what does Critical Thinking look like in the 21st Century?
  3. The virtual world is increasingly becoming a public space, so how does one create an authentic identity online?
  4. With the creative commons and a growing recognition of collective intelligence, how does one become creative and innovative in the 21st Century?

By framing questions in a manner that forces people to look outside their comfort zone and address the changes occurring in society, the necessity for tech in education becomes clearer. Once we have addressed questions like these, we can give better answers to “What characteristics do we want our students to have when they become adults?”

PS – A colleague of mine asked what I thought to be a very profound question – “Can you teach 21st Century Literacy without electricity?” If you want to see where people stand on the role of technology in education, ask them that question.

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