What’s next?

Posted by James Scoolis on January 31, 2011

Recently I went to an in-service where I was advised to make my office “impeccable,” by which they basically meant nearly empty.  I was even told to get rid of my computer!  While that is not going to happen, I did decide to clean out my office.

I started with the bookcase.  I had books in there going all the way back to my master’s degree program when I was still a regular classroom teacher.  Let me just say that was when the internet was still considered experimental and “Apple or Windows?” remained a hotly debated question in school districts.   One book I moved to the donation-recycle pile was ASCD’s 1998 Yearbook, Learning with Technology.

Flipping through the pages I reflected on how far we in education have come with our long-desired “technology integration.” For example, there were visionary discourses on school in the 21st century with statements like, “Encourage teachers and students to start using the internet to become familiar with technology,” “Provide internet access in each classroom, or at least in as many classrooms as possible,” and “Provide email accounts for teachers.”    I think we have that last one under control.

There were also articles that discussed how technology would be the centerpiece of a complete redesign of schools—well, not schools, but rather learning centers, without actual classrooms, where  teams of teachers would work as learning facilitators.  That hasn’t happened yet anywhere near where I work.

What did the visionaries of 1998 omit from their prognostications?  There wasn’t anything in the book about discouraging students from bringing or using handheld internet devices.  No mention was made of the fact we should not use a student’s name in the subject line of an e-mail, nor were we reminded that each and every e-mail is, in fact, a permanent document subject to subpoena.  You get the idea.

Despite the fact not all of  the yearbook’s predictions have come to pass, technology certainly has become integrated into seemingly every aspect of life at school, home and work.  We have Google to answer our questions, Facebook to find and be a friend, and Wikipedia as a reliable source of information.   Our music, video and other entertainment is nearly all digital and available immediately online. The nature and concept of software itself is being transformed.  Fears that computers would isolate us or expose us to all sorts of revisionist history have proven false.

Schools, students, teachers, administrators—we all have and use technology.  Wow!  Now what?  What’s next?