Not every school is going to take the same path towards rethinking teaching and learning.
Every school should be constantly reviewing its mission and teaching practices, and revisiting how they can best serve young people as the world changes. I'm excited about technology in education not just because I think networked learning environments can make new teaching practices possible, but because technology has the potential to invigorate conversations about mission and teaching. When schools invest in new devices, new professional development, or new approaches, they create an opportunity to rethink fundamental questions about the purpose of schooling and the daily practices in classrooms. (One can imagine an ideal world where these conversations happen as a matter of course, but in truth they are too infrequent, and technology can be one way of opening minds and sparking new discussions).
EdTechTeacher, the professional learning consultancy that I co-founded, is holding a conference this July in Chicago exploring some of the futures of learning that we have ahead of us. We've identified a set pathways that schools are embracing as a way of using technology to rethink teaching and learning: tablets, Chromebooks, BYOD, flipped classrooms, makerspaces and other agile learning spaces, and collaboration with Google apps and the cloud.
I have my own personal biases and favor some of these approaches more than others. That said, any of these pathways can open doors towards richer conversations about teaching and learning. Schools that use "flipped classrooms" as a starting point can think more deeply about how to use precious time, and using flipping as a bridge to mastery-based and project-based learning. Tablets can be mere replacements for notebooks and textbooks, or they can be powerful, portable, multimedia creation devices. Bring Your Own Device policies can be implemented on the basis of cost savings, but tney can lead to inquiries about how we can create classrooms where students demonstrate their learning through diverse performances of understanding.
I'd be pretty thrilled if every school latched on to maker spaces and other agile learning spaces as a starting point for experiments about rethinking teaching, learning and the purposes of school. But every school won't. Every context is different; every community has a different culture and a different history. So for me, the question is this: regardless of where a school community is starting, regardless of which technology-mediated waters they decide to dip their toe into, how can we find a pathway from those entry points into deeper conversations about teaching and learning?
For any readers of these missives who have an interest in sharing your own stories and practices as they relate to these themes and pathways, I'd encourage you to apply to present at this summer's EdTechTeacher summit. I'm looking forward to a great conversation, joined by a terrific group of thinkers and speakers, including Will Richardson, Jennie Magiera, Wes Fryer, Richard Bryne, and Sylvia Martinez.