I just attended a great talk by Chris Dede, a professor at Harvard, about emerging interactive media in education. Dede, who has been studying and working in the educational technology field for about 30 years, spoke about how teachers today are preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, which raises the question: How do we effectively teach students the skills they need even though we don’t have a clear vision of what exactly they might be doing in the future?
The main focus of Dede’s talk was Web 2.0, how it can be used in classrooms, and what concerns may arise from those tools. He talked about tools that make students (and teachers) engage their thinking skills, such as blogs, podcasts, wikis, and discussion forums. He then took it one step further to talk about tools that encourage creation, such as social bookmarking sites, video and photo sharing sites, online writer’s workshops and fan fiction sites, and mash-ups. Lastly, Dede talked about combining all of those skill sets to engage in “sharing and doing” through social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, as well as through collaborative social change communities like Idealist and Kiva.
The main point I took away from Dede’s talk was that what students need to learn in school is changing, the tools that they use to both learn and be engaged are changing, and it’s up to schools and educators to figure out exactly how to handle that transition. Web 2.0 tools, if used properly, can be powerful and engaging learning tools, but so far most of the innovation has been for entertainment, social, or personal purposes. The challenge now is to figure out how to effectively harness those tools for education.
I’m always exhausted by the end of a conference like this one, which is chock full of opportunities to hear from educators, researchers, and also those in the corporate sector, and I’m sure it’ll be a few days before I can fully appreciate the whirlwind of discussions I’ve heard, people I’ve met, and ideas that have been floated, but I think it’s safe to say that across the board, technology is playing a major role in transforming how students learn and what they need to know, and it’s a very exciting time to be in education.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.