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Posts Tagged ‘now

I have always wondered why some teachers and school leaders are fond of citing ICT “use” in order to “prepare for the future”.

I could focus on why “use” is not as effective as “integration” or “immersion”, but that is for another day.

Take a straw poll and people will tell you that the future is uncertain. How can you prepare for what you cannot see or define?

We should be leveraging on the ICTs we already have to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities we have now. These are the smartphones in students pockets, their always-on connections, their indefinite reach, and their relevance now.

What we do now affects the future and helps shape it, so we should focus on the present and work our way forward. Focusing on the future (for example, “they will need this later”) is attempting to reverse engineer a projected need that may not exist.

I know what these well-intentioned teachers and leaders mean to say. Look forward. Do not teach the way you were taught. Prepare kids for their future, not your past.

These are messages that resonate with me too. But let us not forget the now because it is what we already have and the now shapes our future. The future messages are empty rhetoric; the actions we take now might prove historic.

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This is a video of people on the brink of adulthood who did not know how to rip music from a CD and transfer the soundtracks to a digital music player.

Video source

Why? They no longer need this skill because the technology has changed. Within their lifetime digital music has evolved from ripping CDs to downloading MP3s to streaming music from the cloud.

If you asked a representative group of teachers to watch this, how many would demand that CD ripping be part of curriculum? None would because it would sound ridiculous. No one would be up in arms about it the same way they would get emotional about, say, writing in cursive.

We write for a number of reasons, among them to express and to communicate. Some learners find it difficult to overcome basic barriers to writing.

Untidy handwriting is one. If a reader cannot decipher handwriting, the writer cannot be understood. Schools enable that barrier because they do not embrace typing, voice recognition software, or other forms of digital expression.

Another barrier to good communication is poor spelling, grammar, and sentence construction. Modern word processing software and programmes created to assist writers with special needs can reduce or remove this barrier.

However, such basic solutions to relatively low level barriers to writing are not more common in classrooms. Kids are still required to write by hand because schools embrace pen and pencil technology instead of Internet-related technology. Only Finland seems to be moving forward with typing as writing.

No one romanticizes lost skills like milking cows by hand because the vast majority of us do not need to thanks to technology. I would argue that most kids will not need to hand write much or even at all when they are working adults.

They will need to write logically and coherently in non-paper exam contexts. They will need to process huge amounts of information in a very short time and work with very different people they might have never met in person. They will need better and new written communication skills. How many schools refocus curricula to these?

What I just described is not a future scenario; it is already happening and needed now. What holds us back is our perspective of the problem.

Adults and teachers often look at things through the lens of “in my time” nostalgia. Nostalgia is like grammar: It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

The past is certain because we already know already happened. It is also rose-tinted and rose-scented because our memories are biased. The future might seem uncertain, but that is only the case if we choose not to shape it now.

In twenty years, we will look back at schooling. Will we wonder why we had to do the equivalent of ripping CDs or will that still be the norm? Or might we be enjoying the fruits of sowing and harvesting from the cloud?

This TED talk goes beyond this juicy question.

The speaker, Carol Dweck, described a school where students were not given a fail grade if they did not not exhibit mastery. Instead, they were graded “not yet”.

This could lead to a deprogramming of wanting results, products, or grades now, and lead to a focus on resilience, effort, and self-motivation.

Dweck recommended a few strategies for promoting “yet” and dissuading “now”:

  • Praise processes, not products or innate traits
  • Reward effort, strategy, and progress
  • Show paths for learner progress
  • Talk to learners about growth mindsets

This is what 1GB looked like 20 years ago and now. Well, not right now because we have micro SD cards that hold more than 1GB of data.

What might teaching look like in 20 years?

Much the same if we don’t do anything about it. Very different if we go with the flow.

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