I think one of the things that frustrates me the most in conversations about teaching and learning with technology is the assertion that technology should fundamentally change who we are as learners. The truth is, I’m neck deep in the digital soup and my core learning behaviors haven’t changed.
I’m still seeking out conversations that challenge my thinking—or that allow me to pursue my own passions and interests. I’m still working to judge the reliability of information. I’m still organizing content and looking for trends across sources. I’m still trying to change minds by being persuasive. I’m still looking for solutions to problems.
You are too, right? After all, the most accomplished individuals have always learned socially and developed strategies for persuading, spotting trends, and solving problems.
These aren’t new behaviors, y’all.
What is new is the reality that digital tools allow anyone with an Internet connection to do all of this work more efficiently and effectively than ever before.
Services like Twitter make it possible to create customized streams of filtered information on almost any topic. Blogs and discussion boards and video-conferencing tools make it possible to collectively wrestle with ideas—to have your thinking challenged and to challenge the thinking of others—anytime.
Social bookmarking services make it possible to curate huge collections of content. Cheap video-production and digital-photography tools paired with free cloud-based homes for publishing content make it possible to experiment with visual influence and persuasion.
Tools designed to record content make it possible to create tutorials that can reinforce concepts. Services designed for social good make it possible for individuals to join together and drive real change in their worlds. Spaces designed to bring people together electronically become unique homes for people to revel in their shared interests.
What does this all mean for teachers?
It’s time that we stop thinking that new tools are magical and revolutionary. The real magic rests in the hearts and minds of teachers who show students how to use new tools to efficiently master the kinds of essential skills that have defined accomplished learners and influential leaders for generations.
Bill Ferriter is a 6th grade science teacher in North Carolina, Solution Tree author, and education blogger.
The opinions expressed in Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable 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.