Technology enhances education, says SD43 manager
Brian Kuhn is the manager of Information Services for School District 43 and a blogger who writes about education and technology issues at www.shift2future.com. In this Q and A with education reporter Diane Strandberg, Kuhn discusses the trends in education technology and issues raised during a conference he attended in late June.
Q. ISTE (The International Society of Technology Educators) in San Diego in June brought together hundreds of education leaders, organizations and businesses together to talk about the future of technology and education, what were you hoping to accomplish by attending this conference?
A. This being the largest educational technology conference, is the place to meet edtech thought leaders, see the latest edtech products, and to learn some of the best edtech practices and tools, all in one place. I wanted to experience this personally to expand my network for, knowledge, and understanding of edtech. Although we can easily connect online through twitter, blogs, email, and video conferencing, being human we still have a need to engage with each other face to face. Relationships and the resulting sharing and helping are strengthened and the online interactions are more productive and enjoyable.
Q. In your blog summarizing your participation in the conference, you note that you used 3D technology to solve math problems, iPad applications to create a video essay and Lego programming language to drive a robot, among other things. Do these programs have any practical use in the classroom and, if so, why?
A. I believe that programming (2D and 3D) and robotics are practical, fun, and engaging methods to learn and apply math, geometry, physics, art, music, and logic as well as acquiring practical real-world valuable computer skills. The iPad, particularly the vast array of apps, provide new ways for students to create and represent their learning across subject areas — rather than limited to words on a page, students working together research, gather information, record images and video, write, document, and share their learning with others in rich engaging ways. With these tools, students have 10’s of $1000’s of tools, millions of dollars of information to work with at very little cost — never before in history has this been the case.
Q. Do you think tablets and iPads will replace laptops in the classroom, are they a more affordable option for schools? Are they limited as to their applications?
A. For students, I think they can replace laptops for younger students. But as students move to higher grades, the types of writing, creating, producing will become more sophisticated, and the utility of a laptop (mouse, keyboard, larger display, multi-windowed, multi-tasking, fast) becomes more important. Ideally, students would have access to laptops, tablets/iPads, and smartphones. There are overlaps in use but they each bring specific value to learning and work. Tablets and iPads are still quite expensive. As their cost comes down, we will see them proliferate in schools as teachers understand their specific value to learning and teaching.
Q. Is technology changing education? If so how, and for the better? Do you see any model examples in School District 43?
A. Tools have always changed society, not just education. In some real sense, education is a technology itself, a tool we used to improve our ability to live and work in our environment. Information / Digital Technology enhances all other tools and increasingly makes possible the impossible. Encyclopedia sets, still and video cameras, the world's newspapers, writing instruments, audio recorders, cartoon creators, writing for the world, communicating with other societies, etc. all in your hand for nearly $0. This must change education. A small example in SD43 can be seen in student blogging (see: http://www.shift2future.com/2012/06/what-kids-say-about-blogging.html) or virtual world learning (http://www.shift2future.com/2010/12/our-students-are-immersed-in-3d.html) or visit www.shift2future.com and scroll down the blog list.
Q. In your blog, you quote Clay Shirky as saying we've moved from a world of scarcity in terms of options, information and tools to one of abundance but education mainly still operates as if we still live in a world of scarcity? Do you agree and why does it matter?
A. As long as we see education as a mechanism of delivering information, knowledge, and learning, we treat it as a scarce resource that a few have access to and are able to make sense of it. However, information, knowledge, and learning has been freed by technology and made available to anyone who seeks it. Education needs to shift to one of providing wisdom, rich experiences, guiding learners to engage with our world, find their passion, and learn to love learning. As part of the process then, learners have access to abundant information, knowledge, tools, experiences, and experts. What a person knows at a given point in time is becoming less important than knowing how to know when they need to and what is worth knowing. So, yes I agree with the quote and that it does matter.
Q. What was the most important thing you learned at the conference that you think parents, educators and students should know.
A. The technologies referred to as the pencil, paper, and the book (printing press) transformed education and society long ago. Imagine that we had not embraced these, what a different world we would have today. With the pace in which new technologies are invented, we all must increasingly be aware of what technologies are available, how and why they can be used to support learning and teaching, not to accept the status quo as good enough, and to continuously reinvent how education is experienced. Educational technology provides opportunities to meet every student's individual learning needs in efficient ways. Our system of education would be negligent if it were not taking advantage of these valuable tools to enhance and transform what teachers can provide to students and what and how students can learn.