Education Opinion

Calling All Coders...Calling All Teachers

By LeaderTalk Contributor — April 07, 2010 3 min read
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It was in the 1990s that I was first exposed to an electronic book. It was during the Texas Educational Technology Pilots which were arranged by Robert Leos and Anita Givens in Texas. These individuals remain my shining hope for the potential for leadership with technology in schools. Together they were light years ahead in their vision for what interactive books could mean for students, and what technology could mean for schools.

Now as Apple releases the iPad, I see the true potential for their dream to become a reality. I wish I was as half as intelligent as Jonathan Ive, but I will have to settle for bowing to his greatness in giving us a platform that will liberate us from non-teacher created educational content. We all are anticipating a battle between the Kindle and iPad as the big name publishers try to establish revenue for intellectual works. I am suggesting that we not wait for an outcome, but rather we take the initiative to regain ownership of our classrooms through the use of Apple’s unique marketing approach to iPhone/iPad applications.

Predictions of sales for the iPad vary but they could be as high as 700,000 units sold already with over 3,100 applications already developed. As of September 2009, Apple had reported that over two-billion iPhone applications had been sold. Now as the iPad/Kindle debate kicks off, it is time to have an education revolution. A revolution where the teacher can finally develop and profit from their own digital intellectual property.

In my humble opinion, we owe a great deal of the legacy for teacher created digital tools to Dr. Bernie Dodge who developed the Webquest. Dodge defined the Webquest as follows, “A WebQuest is built around an engaging and doable task that elicits higher order thinking of some kind. It’s about doing something with information. The thinking can be creative or critical, and involve problem solving, judgment, analysis, or synthesis. The task has to be more than simply answering questions or regurgitating what’s on the screen. Ideally, the task is a scaled down version of something that adults do on the job, outside school walls.” Despite the assertion that teachers would not make tools that did not profit them directly, Dr. Dodge and countless teachers proved the naysayers wrong. While I am not sure if anyone has cataloged the number of webquests out there, Google returns a result of over 500,000 for the word, which did not exist on many sites (if any) before Dodge took the idea and ran with it.

Again in my opinion, no one can make better educational content than the classroom teacher and no one deserves the opportunity to profit from teacher’s endeavors than teachers themselves. Now is the time for the teacher and the coder to bring instructional design down to the classroom level. It is our job as leaders to develop simpler coding interfaces for teachers and coders to use together to make the NEXT generation of educational applications. Before you get ready to laugh me off the site, I might point out that some of the best digital content out there was written in Hypercard, Hyperstudio, and Microworlds. I might also point out that Gamemaker is teaching a lot of teachers and kiddos to code without dealing with too much hard-core coding. A lot of it was developed by teachers and children with no potential to profit financially. The hero of Apple’s success is Steve Jobs, and it is the online stores of Eddy Cue (ITunes, App, and iBook stores) which drive Apples success. Not the device, the marketing model.

We need to learn this lesson and quickly. We need to get a simplified developing interface for Xcode into the hands of teachers yesterday. Until then, you can take a course on the standard Xcode for free on iTunesU.

Thanks Bernie and Steve, it is an awesome world in which we are living.

If you have questions or comments please email me at robert.hancock@selu.edu

-Robert Hancock

The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.