A question like “What are we preparing them for?” still stops me in my tracks. I thought all this technology discussion was about ‘how’ to prepare them. I know what I am preparing them for and it hasn’t changed for over 20 years.
I’m preparing them to think for themselves. I want my students to question everything, especially their own actions. I want them to celebrate diversity and respect difference. I want them to be responsible for their own actions and how their actions have global effects. I want them to care for the earth and their fellow living beings. I try to prepare them to act when they see or hear injustice.
The technology I’m avidly learning right now will definitely make my goal easier to achieve and I think more relevant and more interesting for students. These are great things! But I’ve known some amazing teachers who have achieved these goals with very little technology. Technology alone is not going to make our world a better place.
This is part of the reason why I think we've got to hit the mute button on the "T" word.
Fire is technology. The wheel is technology. The compound bow is technology. "Technology" is just the craft of figuring out a way to do something.
When I say “What are we preparing them for?”, I'm not qualifying that as a statement as to the bearings of education (let alone technology) on their rational and ethical thinking procedures.
I'm actually in a way thinking less of the students and more of the environment they'll live in. I fully realize certain limitations in bringing this forward in the debate, but I think about it nonetheless.
I think about what travel will be like in 2110. After all, it was only in 1910 when a North American airplane first claimed the life of a professional pilot; and yet, despite any hassles, air travel stands not only as the icon of the 20th century but as the safest form of getting from here to there.
I think about what art will be like. After all, it was only in 1907 that Picasso up-turned 500 years of European figurative painting. Been to a museum lately?
I think about what music, and the press, and grocery stores, and shopping malls will be like in 2110. In a way, only shopping malls seem relatively unphased over the centuries.
And so, I prepare my students to be critical thinkers. I prepare them to be able to handle abstract concepts and open-ended questioning. I try my darndest to prepare them for the challenges that lie ahead no matter what.
But in the end, I realize that the world facing them on the other side of the Digital Revolution is as foreign to me as the world of the Agricultural Revolution was to the hunter gatherers.
I'm obliged to recognize that I'm of a generation caught in the transition between two ages. And these sorts of cultural/technological revolutions just seem to catch up to us now and then.
One way or another, the world is fundamentally changed as a result.
Our students need the critical capacity to be able to handle this change. You better be putting them through the paces of Lao-Tzu, Plato, Seneca, and Kant. But none of that will forecast how the world looks after the dust of this revolution settles.
And thus, for a simple guy like me, all I can ask is: “What are we preparing them for?”