Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Tools Catching Up to Old Ways of Thinking?

In response to the poll on smartphones vs. laptops, a reader writes:

Why not just let them use all of the tools at their disposal and re-design the assessment so that it fits into the real world (or virtual world) of practice. Why use new technology for old methods?

"Tools at their disposal" is the operative phrase.

The possible future advantage of smartphones is cost. For a fifth the cost of a laptop, a student could potentially go Wi-Fi directly into all the tools Web 2.0 has to offer. This could be a practical way to close the digital divide.

With regards to "why use new technology for old methods", I have to admit not following that one entirely. We're not talking about "re-designing" the assessment so that it "fits in" to anything. We're talking about working within and beyond the new and evolving dimensions.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that we don't even know what the "real world" is going to be. Certainly, computing in 2009 has little in common with the computing of 1999; and surely the effect that has had on culture has been dramatic. There's likely more folks renting video games than movies on any given Friday night.

Furthermore, when I am teaching my Latin II class about Julius Caesar, I have little interest in whether or not they know the date on which he was assassinated; I care that they understand and can reflect upon why he was assassinated and what his death represents. Wikipedia has made what we used to call "book knowledge" (or "cocktail party knowledge" depending on your inclination) virtually negligible. In short, knowledge just ain't what it used to be. So, if I just "update" my assessments to "new technology", but fail to see what the new paradigm of technology has done to the value of what it is that my old assessments represent, then -- at best -- I am taking part in a futile task.

Of course, good teachers have always known this. And I'm sure that many of you are saying to yourselves: "But I've always been more interested in the 'why and how' than the 'what and when'". Well, then this moment was made for you. Because the future of education within the dynamic digital paradigm is a future of questions, not mere facts. And it's not that the technological world has instigated this, rather it's that the technological world has finally caught up to this.

1 comment:

  1. Facts are a necessary evil. But the facts can be found anywhere. Taking those facts and creating your thoughts is the most important thing.

    Great post. It really sums up my teaching philosophy!


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