This post was written by Laura Warmke, our 7th-12th grade Technology Coach and originally appeared on October 25, 2016 in the 21st Century GRACE technology blog.
In education, you hear lots of words, especially now with blogs and email digests and Twitter. It’s really a wonder that anything sinks in at all. So our new Head of School, Eric Bradley, should be proud to know that something he said at the beginning of this school year keeps bouncing around in my head (And I’m not saying that just to keep my job, I promise).
At the beginning-of-the-year faculty meeting at the 7th-12th grade campus, Eric said something like, “Education is one of the most trend-driven fields there is.” Now, I’m still pretty young (I like to think), so I don’t always have a great perspective on trends and time. I haven’t been in education long enough to see long sweeps of trends, like it seems high-stakes testing may be.
This bothers me, honestly. How do I know that the things I’m encouraging our teachers to do–project-based learning; authentic, real-world applications and products; design-thinking; flipped learning–aren’t just trends? How do I make sure I’m not being swayed by what’s cool, just like I was when I curled those ridiculous bangs every day in middle school (and way too long into high school)?
I do think the pendulum is swinging to a really healthy place in edtech, where the focus isn’t on the devices like it used to be but instead on effective instruction. Seeing that is helpful. Keeping my focus on the goal–effective student instruction–also helps keep me focused. No matter what, GRACE exists to be “a loving community that spiritually and academically equips, challenges, and inspires students to impact their world for Christ.” It’s not about using the words “Project-Based Learning” as many times as I can in a year–it’s about equipping, challenging, and inspiring students.
The final thing that helps me is remembering that people are still basically the same. Guess what? There will always be a need for some direct instruction! There will never be a time when all of our students individually discover an entire system of Calculus on their own. What technology is doing is allowing for more flexibility in that direct instruction (e.g. does it take place at home via a video?) and making it possible for students to do more authentic, deep, inquiry-based learning. It does this in so many ways: allowing students access to vast amounts of information, making real mentorships around the world possible, providing tools for making beautiful and effective products.
I definitely love the newest, coolest thing in education. As I navigate the trends, I’ll try to keep those points in mind to make sure I’m always focused on bringing back the best to our students. Is the focus on students, not the tool? Does this tool or method fit in with what I know about students and learning? Hopefully those two questions will help us pull the best from edtech and discard anything that’s merely the cool thing to do.