At the time of this writing, I’ve been a teacher of children for 2.5 years. A teacher of adults for ten.
And everything has changed.
That doesn’t even account for the change in education since I was a student, sitting in my assigned spot being lectured to, completing worksheets, working on my cursive writing.
The future of technology use in education is something that everyone can try to imagine based on their present and past experiences, but no one can predict. In fact, my role as a technology coach was created as a response to teachers’ perceived inability to cope with the rise of technology integration and prevalence of new tools, techniques and data management expectations. I often joke that my job is to make myself obsolete, something that would be impossible to do if I was teaching skills and tools that may not be around a decade from now. Instead we endeavor to adopt new learning strategies and an understanding on the capabilities of our tools and ourselves so that we can, as learners along with our students, adapt to the pace of change. If a technology coach was truly successful in this mission, there wouldn’t be a need for them any more. Although my love of my job treats that as an internal conflict, perhaps the future of education is one without technology coaches at all. Perhaps it is a transitory role as traditional teachers and digital natives coexist together in education. Perhaps it is already happening, as some schools begin to rebrand these roles as “learning coaches” or “digital literacy coaches”. Kim Cofino had some great thoughts on this in her post on facilitator, coach or coordinator.
While I enjoy fantasizing about a future of growth mindsets, tech-literate educators, and classrooms of learners that include guidance by a learning facilitator rather than a “teacher”, not everything seems to be moving in that direction. Digital literacy is on the forefront of my thinking recently with the prevalence of “fake news” websites and burgeoning capabilities of my fourth graders (who have been image editing convincing portrayals of Donald Trump being abducted by aliens or marrying Hillary Clinton). Though both students and teachers are becoming remarkably savvy with technology tools, the immense amount of data and content being produced and shared online has created a new challenge: sifting through this infinite library in search of truth.
(Trump abduction by Jiwon, ISPP, Grade 4 / No political views were discussed with students)
Stanford University recently published a study demonstrating that middle school children were unable to tell the difference between real and fake news articles on the web. I believe many adults are faced with the same problem. Craig Silverman at Buzzfeed recently published an analysis showing how fake news outperformed real news on Facebook during the last days of the US presidential election, and likely strongly contributed to the results of that election. Students have several times pointed me to an image or video on the internet as proof that faeries exit and UFOs are constantly parading around earth’s skies, and I am forced to draw their attention to the green screen we use to record them in space or under the ocean to demonstrate how something like that might be faked.
I believe my role in the future will often involve delving into the immense amount of information available and raising student awareness of digital media and strategies to verify the information they find. This role will fall to teachers, and librarians, and parents as well. Coincidentally, Common Sense Media published a great article with tips to get us started identifying fake content today, but as our technology increases the production and dissemination of information while blurring the lines between real and contrived, I believe this to be one of the great challenges for future educators. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts or tips in the comments below.