My father was an educator for more than 40 years. He taught me how to read and hundreds of teachers how to teach science. Dad used to always say “be a life long learner.” It is not just wondering about the world around you but seeking answers to those questions you have that moves you. Finding out why things work, talking about concepts and ideas that in the end are critical components of what you are thinking.
I come to this today because I am wondering what my dad would think about a concept. My father embraced technology in his teaching career. He converted slides and projection plates to PowerPoint. He used the computer for communication and jotting down his many thoughts. He even converted the family letter about the our family heirloom the copper kettle from analog to digital.
Learning is a constant state. It evolves and grows with us. I look at the classrooms my children attend and things are certainly better in Maryland than they were in Indiana (as far as technology). I hear people pay lip service to STEM (STEAM and CSTEAM my choice). But taxes designed to fund schools are voted down time and time again. It makes me wonder.
People say all the time they want to improve the world. They want to use technology to make the world a better place. Change the world with technology! It’s a clarion cry I’ve heard before. The world has already been changed by the reality of technology. Its why you suddenly see the concept of a screen free vacation. No screens for a week. The screen free vacation makes technology the bad guy. That technology causes us to waste time. There is a great song by Peter Paul and Mary on their lifeline CD. They talk about getting a computer to save time but all they do now is spend time on the computer.
It is in effect a balance. But the people right in this country that need technology are teachers. They need the tools to make the educational experience better for small children. Interactive systems that let the children experience more motion and activity. I have argued for many years that kids need not only the day to day activities of school but they need to play various sports. Good, bad or horrible is the teachers problem. If the kids are less athletic modify the game so that it is still fun for those who can do, and fun for those who struggle to do. Many years ago while teaching Gym I used a variation of a baseball game I was introduced to. It was originally designed for lesser enabled people to play. I modified it so that it was fair to everyone and still fun. The oldest kids (I had a class with grades 1 to grades 7 in the class) became the captains and coaches. Helping the younger kids be successful. The younger kids were enabled because everyone else could only move a small amount. Those who could only hit the ball a little became home run hitters.Unless you had one of the youngest kids as your catcher then that strategy might not work for a home run.
The game was successful and by the end of the summer they kids wanted to play it every day (we didn’t). We, the class and I were a mix of students by grades and we had two activities we did every day. We did computers in the early morning and gym in the mid morning. By the end of the summer the kids could write solid preforming code in HyperCard and were masters at picking teams that were effective for the games we were playing. Using sports to create a team that valued each other allowed the disparate technology abilities to work together. There wasn’t any completive tension when people took longer to complete one thing, because that person might help you in the other things you were doing.
If you want to sue technology to change the world the best place you can start is funding not just the programs your kids attend but all educational programs that push technology forward.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (or STEM) was recently modified to include Art (STEAM) and I modified it one more time to including connection (CSTEAM). It is in the end a simple concept. Next time the property taxes in your area come up as a potential model for funding schools don’t vote with your short term pocket. We need to fund schools.