Monday, August 31, 2009

Education and Technology – What Century Do You Function In?

Technology can solve problems. Technology can also create problems or reveal existing situations that have nothing to do with the tool used to reveal structural faults. The way we perceived our lives and what we believe to be important is changing; Can you feel the tremors of change?

A technological change can be positive and possibly negative. For my jumping off point I started with Lisa Nielsen's blog The Innovative Educator. Lisa's blog is filled with great educational ideas, technology, concepts and resources, some of them free.

It occurs to me that there would be a lot of schools and school districts that would have no concept of what Lisa is talking about. More to the point, there isn't money to implement five percent of the least expensive ideas she is bring forth.

Free E-Textbooks - What’s Not To Like?

Let me give you an example of my concern. I heard a broadcast on NPR about California approving 10 electronic math and science textbooks. The textbooks are free. Got 30 kids in a class that need textbooks? Not a problem. Kid left USB stick at home? Still can download the textbook.

In favor of e-texbooks:

  • Free e-textbooks saves school districts a lot of money and distribution is a heck of a lot easier.
  • Textbooks can be updated to reflect real world changes without a two or three year time lag.
  • There is the possibility of using animation or constructing animated homework projects to practice math and science concepts.
  • Parental math wars? You could offer two versions of the textbook, perhaps in the same e-textbook.


  • Free is not always free. Yes, the textbooks are free but how will the students access the textbooks? Online? Will it require functional computers in the classroom? Apple, Linux or Windows? Who provide technical support? Replacement for vandalism and theft?
  • What kind of e-textbook will it be? PDF, text or a proprietary format? Will it time out?
  • What about an electronic book reader like the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader PRS 700 or the Bookeen Cybook Opus? Have your priced those devices? Also factor in the cost and the replacement cost.
  • Not all teachers are tech savvy. Some teachers don’t want to be and you can’t make them. How does a teacher incorporate an e-textbook into the lesson? Will he/she read from the screen? Will their be a projector to show an image from the electronic book? How will they have to teach differently?
  • For profit textbook publishers are preparing e-textbook editions. Will for profit e-textbooks morph into being multimedia textbooks? A school district this year does not want evolution? Fine, they take it out the textbook. New school board? Evolution is back in the science book.

Don’t get me wrong. E-textbooks are great idea. California must make use of new technologies. Innovation by its nature will require a change in attitudes, processes and teaching methods. It will also require money or creative ways to make the materials accessible to staff, parents and students.

And Speaking Of A Change of Attitude

Lisa posted this video of Peggy Sheehy’s students telling you what they want and need in an education. The name of her post and this video is No Future Left Behind.

Yes, the video does rattle the bones. For the record, these students will be adults when we are Seniors. I say let’s get on their good side now. By they way, if you are not a parent you are not exempt from knowing about or having these skills. If you are a parent you don’t have much choice in this; your children will force you to change.

How do we do that on a tight budget? How do we do that with a growing cultural individualistic mentality that does not want to pay for other people’s children unless it benefits themselves personally?

Clearing the Path

Like the kids in the video said, outside of the classroom innovation is happening whether you acknowledge or not. There are educators who understand and are preparing the way for the rest of us. The Women of Web 2.0 are working, discovering and exchanging information about just how technology supports education. EdTechTalk also host the Parents As Partners and the Teacher Teaching Teachers podcasts.

Sarah Stewart at Sarah’s Musing is a health educator who writes about open education, transition from her prior teaching style and Second Life virtual birthing pains.

Tom at Bionic Teaching is working on a rubric about what is a 21st century classroom and what are the skills needed such as literacy, creativity and the ability to find and evaluate information. The Tech Savvy Educator ask questions about how do you implement all the new cool stuff like gaming into 45 minutes of instruction?

More Thoughts

It has been said before but we need to make school the place where you have to kick them out at 3 p.m. of instead of having them escape at their earliest opportunity.

For some of you I understand, you want to yank out the technology and put into place a highly controlled, disciplined task focused curriculum. You know for a certain population of students, that might be necessary. But you can’t shelter them from their world. It will find them. Rote learning will not provide for their survival. Or yours for that matter.

Honestly, the next generation will figure this stuff out on their terms. You might not like their terms so this is my modest attempt at self preservation. We need to engage with the tools and technology they are using to transmit the more desirable aspects of our culture and respective heritages.

How shall we move forward?

Gena Haskett is a Contributing Editor at BlogHer and that is where this post originally appeared.


  1. I'm going to share this post with the educators I know. Great analysis, provocative thoughts.

  2. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  3. Thank you for sharing some ideas from my blog. The comment that "there isn't money to implement five percent of the least expensive ideas she brings forth," strikes a cord with me. I am planning a new post and keynote for the New Year (January) called, "You Don’t Have to Pay for That. Innovative Ways Technology Can Save You Thousands in Money Conscious Times." It will focus on how using technology can actually save schools money. Stay tuned at