Although at times it feels like a lifetime ago, I quite vividly remember selecting my undergraduate degree of Business Education because of its emerging focus on technology. Even at that time [the late 1990's], at my young age, and the relative infancy of the Internet, I had an idea of the unbreakable connections between emerging technologies, education, and the arts. My understanding of my role with technology and education has changed as continually as the technologies themselves have developed. More than a decade has come and gone, vast changes have taken place, and although I still hold some of the beliefs I held at this time, much of my outlook toward educational technology has changed.
At the beginning of my career, I focused on teaching technology. Not teaching with technology, but teaching technology. Just as Marshal McLuhan would say that the medium is the message, I believed that the technology was the content. I taught keyboarding, word processing and other office applications, computer animation, programming, web design and photo editing. I felt very successful at what I was doing. I was very proud of my ability to engage most students, and I had very few major behavior or classroom management issues. I particularly remember being very proud of achieving class average keyboarding speed improvements of over 30 words per minute, or enabling particular grade nines and tens to develop this skill well beyond 100 words per minute. There were a lot of successes. I was often able to push students to develop their technology skills, often guiding them to complete projects they would not otherwise have completed, or perhaps even thought possible.
It was sometime after trading the computer lab for the classroom and the art room that I began to question what the end purposes of education were. I am quite sure that a large number of young people are able to keyboard quite well because of my efforts. Many probably rely on that skill regularly at school and a work. I know of some students who have continued to program and have long ago exceeded my understanding of computer languages. Perhaps there are some web-designers or even an animator or two out there that found their spark in one of my classes. I am proud of that. At some point however, I began to ask bigger questions.
What is the purpose of education? Is the end goal to prepare young people to enter the work force? Is the aim to help children develop skills that help them earn a living? I’m still quite certain that these are important goals, but now I see them as just a piece of a larger puzzle. Is the purpose of education to teach the youth how to earn a living? Or is it perhaps the goal to teach children how to build a life? (see Neil Postman) As I began to ponder questions of this magnitude, it became clear to me that in the earlier part of my career, I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture. I believed that the technology was the message. Now, I question that notion. Technology is not the message, but rather the medium to be used to deliver the message. I believe much more strongly in principles of integrality, interconnectedness, and interdisciplinarity. I think that technological literacies are still very important. They are a very important pieces of the greater whole. Computer skills still need to be taught as content, but perhaps in less of a separate nature, and instead, integrated into all disciplines of study.
So although ‘The Song Remains the Same’, and technological literacy is still essential, I think that I now hear the tune in a much different way; with a different ear; from a different perspective.
Filed under: E.C.& I. 831-834 | Tagged: change, Ed. Tech, Education, Educational Technology, pedagogy, purpose, Purpose of Education | 5 Comments »