Well here we are at 2022. I got my first nintendo in 1986 and played Super Mario Brothers more than I should have. But I also built forts, ran through the bush and rode my bike everywhere. I used my first laptop in 1987 (as my mother was a software sales rep and we always had the latest computers) which I would eventually teach my mother how to use and troubleshoot. I also played soccer, hockey and French horn. In my high school in 1990 the typing lab was replaced by a computer lab, and in computer class we new way more about computer's than our poor instructor. I also starting working a job full time in the summer and learned about hard work and farming. In 1999, I got my first email address and was very comfortable with computers, spreadsheets, and now social media, online teaching, interactive whiteboards and many other tools. I spent time surfing, snowboarding, kayaking and learning Spanish in rural Mexico. I see the potential in VR and AR and am excited to see them integrated meaningfully into education. However, to tell the truth, at no point in time do I think that my education or teaching is truly improved by the use of this technology. There is benefits but also some very large consequences. It was in doing that I learned 99% of what I know not by passively watching or consuming.
I truly appreciate the benefits of our modern world the ability to watch instructional videos, movie and music streaming, face timing family far away, bringing light to injustice and being able to learn about anything at anytime. You could probably list 100 ways that technology has been introduced into our schools in the last 30 years! But is education really better? As someone who learned to write on paper, do math from a chalkboard and built my own house by reading books, truly just doing as well as talking and working alongside others without ever once consulting a Youtube video I think that learning vicariously is a very important aspect of any learning. Technological learning often seems passive. Not that it must be this way, but the way we consume media (90% of our use of technology) is passive and this shapes the learners and use in education. As Kottke says, "All technological change is a trade off." Yes, we CAN learn to do anything, but are we really DOING what we are learning. I say this because I made videos with very specific steps for Woodworking projects for years (for students absent or needing refreshers). I also demonstrated these steps in person. The in-person learning was always much more effective and often students could watch a whole video on exactly what they need to do for a specific project step and gain almost no knowledge or skill. Imagine watching a video of someone playing guitar and then thinking you will be able to play. Another example would be reading a map to navigate, Google Maps seems to be creating passive arrow followers, The ability to learn by watching passively is very ineffective. In my time in University I would work on a grain farm in the summer. In the 4 or 5 months of hard farm work, I also felt like I learned more than in my 8 months of University each year. One must push through the struggle and persevere to learn, online or IRL. This skill seems to be dissipating with the consumption of information versus the use of information with the current technological trends and attitudes of the students I teach.
I completely understand that our students will need to use and be capable with technology as well as be good digital citizens. But I worry that the focus on using technology, apps, smartphones, tablets, laptops is creating more of a problem than a solution in our schools. Ask students how many can play ping pong, or billiards. Very few, but they can play pong and online phone pool. So what I am really trying to point out, is that we seem to prioritize technology use without understanding that often learning on (or with) technology has more of an appearance of learning than actual development of skills. Coding and flow chart thinking are useful skills but these exact troubleshooting and problem skills are developed to a higher level in fixing a lawnmower or building a skateboard ramp. This could also be said of traditional learning, passive learning is significantly less effective than active learning in any setting (I just find technology in education is often quite a passive and distracting medium).
So should schools change? Yes, we should give every kid a chromebook and then use them meaningfully and properly to really learn important content creation, collaboration, problem-solving and creativity as connected to curricular outcomes. We should teach them about limits on screen time, social media's negative effects on mental health and how passive use of technology is pretty much as useful as watching TV. Students already use technology much of their day, so we should also prioritize no tech time, where we do science experiments, study ecology, solve math problems on paper, build models out of physical stuff (sorry minecrafters!) and learn to work with our hands, bodies and brains together. Many students will work with technology, but the use of this technology will be quite specific to industry and so we must teach them digital skills as much as reading, arithmetic and writing. But learning is an active pursuit and so the use of technologically must be undertaken very intentially.
Lastly, if technology was going to truly change education, then this pandemic experience of remote learning is the start of a new wave. It seems to be working great for my graduate studies. I really do like meeting on zoom, blogging, researching online, but to be honest, mostly to avoid the 40 minute drive to the university and back, without that I would choose books and people in person! Furthermore, based on my experience with the lack of engagement with elementary and high school students I would guess that schools will be around in their traditional form for many years to come. Technology will have a large influence on what, how and where we teach in the coming years, but I don't believe it will revolutionize the face of education. Institutions are slow to adapt and too much of the world occurs offline!