Our classrooms are under immense pressure. The economy seems to be heading in a direction that at best can be termed “sideways” and the resources that we all have both in our own homes and on a government level are very constrained. Despite the many challenges that lay ahead resilience of so many individuals is inspirational.
Innovation & Technology Inside our Society
One area in particular that is really shinning today is the space of innovation – with a very heavy lean towards innovation in the technology sector. It is very interesting to see how some of these technologies make their way into our every day lives, how other technologies evolve and adapt, and yes how even other technologies “do not make it.” So much of the success or failure of a specific instance of technology is based on a variety of factors including the need, the desire and the implementation. Even more so, so much of the success and failure of every technology is directly tied to how that particular technology communicates with its intended audience.
Innovation & Technology Inside our Classrooms
And don’t think for a second we were not going to be talking about the classroom – we are after all a technology facing STEM education company! The truth is the broad paradigm that were mentioned with regard to technology is also very applicable to the classroom.
The speed at which we are asking our classrooms to evolve is stunning. And so much of this evolution is directly attributable to new technology. The changing dynamics of our economy are also playing a role as is the fact that technology has entered the cultural zeitgeist (and yes, we think that is a good thing). A broad swath of our citizens are very interested in technology and the result is technology now receives a nicer seat at our tables, both inside the classroom and elsewhere.
The Classroom Inspired ‘Technology’ Dialogue
As a result of the increasing role that technology is playing inside our classrooms, as well as the increasing appreciation that new suite of technologies revolving around “social media” are here to stay, we are also beginning to explore new paradigms in terms of communication inside our classrooms as well. How students communicate, how teachers communicate, and at higher levels even things like how technology communicates to the classroom.
And so while we are evaluating the tools we use in the classroom, we are also in the midst of a very substantive national dialogue surrounding how we teach – the Flipped Classroom is quickly becoming a mainstream conversation piece.
The Mythical One Stop Shopping Experience
Too often when talking about our schools there is a tendency to try to drive the conversation in very specific directions. Especially when we are talking about items that evoke immense passion (such as our classrooms) there seems to be a very big need to try and find solutions that fit nicely inside a box. Technology will solve everything. More money will solve everything. Better educated teachers will solve everything. More classroom time. More lab time. Better diet. The most recent teaching model. More community involvement….
Of course as educators we all know that is not the case. The solutions are not cookie cutter and nor should our approaches be.
In particular we’d like to for a moment explore technology in our classroom as this is one area that it appears all our classrooms are racing toward. It is also one area that seems to very much align with a “fit in a box” mode of thinking. And it is not just our classrooms that are racing towards technology centric education solutions – big technology companies like Apple and Google have also devoted substantial amounts of their own resources to the classroom.
And we think that is great. But… and yes there is a but here….
It has been our observation here at Why Science that one area that we all too often neglect when considering technology inside the classroom is the classroom itself. Technology alone does not assure success. A classroom also happens to have a few other critical pieces that need to be addressed including both students and teachers. If we are going to get serious about bringing technology into the classroom we also need to get serious about bringing technology training inside the classroom.
Not only do we need to get serious about bring technology training inside the classroom, we also need to get serious about making sure that the classroom is also effectively informing how we mold our education technology resources.
In terms of our own observational experiences, we have seen as we continue to develop and refine our upcoming STEM teaching platform Poly & Mer, much like with many other technologies that tend to be more meaningful, as a result of direct teacher and student feedback we have been able to advance the direction of our platform considerably. In addition, as the result of being very focused on both our platform, and also on developing a suite of training tools, the ability of our teacher partners to effectively utilize our platform has also increased dramatically. A healthy back and forth communication.
A great example from the classrooms of today. iPads are wonderful, but if a technology is entirely reliant on the utilization of iPads and our teachers do not know how to use iPads there is a big gap. Or perhaps a school district is not able to commit resources to outfitting an entire student body with iPads so again we’d be confronted with a big gap. The point being that while perhaps in a vacuum there might be some great instances of technology, that learning technology also has a responsibility to be directly accountable to the real classrooms that make up the world of today.
What we are talking about it balance.
What Comes Next
Of course, just as it feels like it is very early in terms of the most recent technology renaissance, so too is it early in terms of the more recent dialogues taking place inside our classrooms and it will take time for these ideas (both how to teach and what tools to use) to evolve, to be measured, to achieve a nice balance inside the classroom and ultimately to mature. For now though we are left with what should be a very healthy tension between our more traditional approaches to education and the more recent “ideas.”
Meanwhile the journey feels like it is just starting and we, like so many of you, are looking forward to seeing how the classroom will continue to evolve, and also how new technologies will continue to introduce us to a series of very exciting education frontiers.