In too many schools, technology integration has come to
mean retrofitting new technology to outdated curriculum. Digital tools are
tacked onto lessons, simply replacing functions that were once performed with
traditional tools, such as pen and paper.
There’s a wide gulf between technology use in the
classroom and actual
“As technology begins to change things, we naturally
want to fit it into what we know and do. Unfortunately, we have reached a point
where that no longer works. We need to revisit how we do things in education,”
said former educator Tom Whitby, who urges
educators to stop trying to fit digital age tools into a
20th (or in some cases 19th) century teaching model.
“When it comes to teaching students in the 21st century I have come to
believe that it is more important to teach kids how to learn than it is to teach
them what to learn.”
Education needs more than just a facelift. Educators are heading back to the
drawing board on everything from classroom design to content delivery methods.
Some even advocate for re-conceptualizing school entirely, focusing less on
school as a physical place and more on learning as an anytime, anywhere
Perhaps most important, many say, is the need to refocus curricula to reflect
the true demands of a digital world.
“Much of what children learn in schools today was
designed for the era of paper-and-pencil,” said Massachusetts Institute of
Technology professor Mitchel Resnick, who argues in The Global Information
Technology Report: Readiness for the Networked World
that most education reforms fall short because they fail to
overhaul existing curricula and teaching strategies.
“We need to update curricula for the digital age. One reason is obvious:
Schools must prepare students with the new skills and ideas that are needed for
living and working in a digital society.”
The Common Core and ISTE Standards provide a springboard
for doing this. What we need now is for educators to step up and not just adjust
their curricula to align with these standards but redesign it from the ground
up. Want to answer the charge? Join
the Project ReimaginED community, where forward-thinking
educators are collaborating to do exactly that.
We’re working on redesigning learning to:
Prepare students for an inconceivable future.
In the video Shift Happens, Karl Fisch
and Scott McLeod explore how the global population has grown exponentially, and
with it the level of connectivity and information available to students — more
than half of whom
will end up with
careers that don’t even exist yet.
Their assessment: “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t
yet exist using technologies that haven’t yet been invented in order to solve
problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”
Today’s teachers have inherited
an education system designed to prepare
students for a “punch-clock world,” argues Cathy N. Davidson, author of Now You
See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work
and Learn. It’s a system focused on developing the task-focused skills demanded
first by the Industrial Age assembly line and later by the hierarchical
corporation. However, the “interactive, globalized and contributory” world
students are preparing to enter demands a very different set of skills.
“Simply put, we can’t keep preparing students for a
world that doesn’t exist,” journalist Virginia Heffernan said
in the New York Times.
Make room for higher-order skills.
Communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking: These and other
higher-order thinking skills outlined in the Common Core and ISTE Standards are
the ones students will need to adapt to a changing and unimaginable future. Yet
we’re still so busy adhering to the Industrial Age model, teachers are
hard-pressed to incorporate the types of learning experiences that allow these
skills to flourish.
“The curriculum is already overburdened with content,
which makes it much harder for students to acquire — and teachers to teach —
both knowledge and skills via deep dives into projects,” said
Charles Fadel, founder of the Center
for Curriculum Redesign.
“There is a strong global consensus on what the skills are and how teaching
methods via projects can affect skills acquisition, but there is little time
available during the school year, given the overwhelming amount of content to be
While teachers may not be able to control the amount of
content they are required to cover, what they can do is find new ways to connect
the content to students’ real-world experiences and explore new ways to guide
students toward deeper learning
while encouraging them to flex their higher-order skills.
Allow for new possibilities.
“New technologies are changing not only what students should learn, but also
what they can learn,” Resnick said.
“There are many ideas and topics that have always been important but were
left out of traditional school curricula because they were too difficult to
teach and learn with only paper, pencil, books, and blackboard. Some of these
ideas are now accessible through creative use of new digital technologies.”
What new ideas does technology allow students to
find out together.