Brave New Wireless World

Typical 21st-century teenagers are now enrolled in cyber-school where they select and organize their own personal learning experiences. Every learner is equipped with the technology required to participate in this equitable, brave new wired world. Partnerships between computer companies and education ministries make this possible.

Students no longer sit in neat rows enduring archaic Socratic lectures delivered by burnt-out, autocratic teachers. Young people now are motivated by multimedia programs and learn at their own pace and level of understanding.

Does this scenario sound too far-fetched? Is this actually the future of education or merely a vision of things that might be?

Whatever the face of education will look like as the 21st century unfolds – one thing is certain: technology is dramatically changing the way our teachers will teach and our students will learn.

Today’s blog post is inspired by the following excerpt from an article, The New Face of Learning: the Internet breaks school walls down, by Will Richardson published in Edutopia’s magazine October 2006 issue:

“This is, indeed, a changed world. From the realities of war to the fears of avian flu and the global-warming crisis, these first few years of the twenty-first century have already tested us in innumerable ways, and the tests show no sign of abating in either intensity or frequency. But I wonder whether, twenty-five or fifty years from now, when four or five billion people are connecting online, the real story of these times won’t be the more global tests and transformations these technologies offered. How, as educators and learners, did we respond? Did we embrace the potentials of a connected, collaborative world and put our creative imaginations to work to re-envision our classrooms? Did we use these new tools to develop passionate, fearless, lifelong learners? Did we ourselves become those learners?

Or did we cling to old ideas, old models, and old habits and drift more fully into irrelevance in our students’ eyes?”

The reality is – it’s not too late to reshape the education system to effectively harness the transformational power of collaborative technologies like blogs, wikis and podcasts on the Internet.

School districts need to create a clear vision and framework to direct and implement broad-based teacher training and student access to these dynamic technologies as well as a robust financial plan to support and sustain them.

Student buy-in is pretty much a given. As each day passes, our children continue to drift away from the tired teacher-centered pedagogies of yesterday. They live, breath and converse in a brave new wireless world where instant messaging and online sharing are king.

Yet the rush to embrace new technologies should be tempered with the fact that they are tools. Effective teachers inspire students and foster the love of learning; computers can’t. Educators can set moral and academic standards and encourage their students to achieve them; computers can’t. Computers have lots of memory but no imagination.

Our current education system may very well one day be replaced by a new paradigm that fully utilizes the collaborative nature of the read and write technologies of the Internet. But let’s hope that tomorrow’s learners never completely lose contact with real human beings who can both enlighten and inspire them to realize even greater heights.


Modern day prophets?

Whenever Canadian oratorical giant Stephen Lewis speaks to children in war-torn or disease-ravaged countries he always hears the same plea from them, they want to go to school.

In a stirring speech that spoke to the hearts, minds and souls of Catholic educators in Waterloo Region – Lewis eloquently painted a graphic portrait of the horrendous poverty and human suffering currently gripping Africa.

His talk centered on the failure of Western countries to achieve the eight UN Millennium Development goals, one of which includes eradicating poverty from the face of the earth by 2015.

He also pointed out how tellingly sad is the lack of political leadership that it takes celebrities like U2’s Bono or Madonna to shed light on the oppression of the poor and disenfranchised of the world.

One day earlier, the ‘wealthiest’ human being on the planet, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, spoke at the University of Waterloo. Gates not only challenged his audience to embrace new technologies and careers in math and computer science.

A significant part of his message to the students and faculty focused on how the free enterprise system works quite well for the top and middle categories of the world’s population but not so well for the 2 billion people who live at the bottom. He challenged the youthful audience to think more about the needs of the poor.

Both Lewis and Gates’ recent presentations point out how whether in the most prestigious university using the most advanced technological gizmo or in a humble African mud hut, that all the knowledge in the world is empty, unless tempered by a healthy dose of human compassion.

Welcome to McLuhansghost blog!

As you can see – this blog is rather fresh; like a new pair of jeans or sneakers – I’d love for you to help me break it in.

I’m hoping to spark discussion around such topics as: instructional technology in the classroom, religious faith and technology, how students learn, how we can tap into how students learn or any other media, technology or faith-related issues.

You don’t need to be a classroom teacher to voice an opinion. Everybody ‘teaches’ to one degree or another and everyone has been on the other side as a student. You just need to have an opinion and willingness to share it in a reasonable and respectful manner.

Who knows – your thoughts may even contribute to my Master’s thesis (Master of Catholic Thought) – or first book . . . sometime within the next couple of years . . . decade?

Anyway – to get the ball rolling – please take a minute to comment on my recent editorial on the disturbing trend of school shootings –Media must shoulder blame for violent rampages.

Thanks for taking the time to visit and hopefully . . . share your thoughts.

Let the ‘clash of ideas’ begin!