Friday, April 22, 2011

Finding technology’s place in education is not the first cultural shift driven by a younger generation

Elvis001b In the 1950’s, the emergence of rock and roll onto the music scene changed pop culture in the United States and the world forever.  This cultural shift was greatly the result of its huge popularity and ability to connect to a younger audience.  Rock and Roll’s influence, both good and bad, is an example of how a younger generation, mostly kids, drove the rest of society to find their place among the more established (and older) community.

Today, many of the shifts in education due to emerging technologies are also the result of the younger generation’s effort to find their place and contribute to their world.  Rock and roll allowed the child of the 50’s to make a stronger connection to their known community – town, neighborhood, school, etc.  Today, that community is global.  It’s boundaries are determined solely by the touch of a keystroke and the click of a mouse.

Rock and roll found its place in the music world.  It took some time, but it is no loner viewed as the subversive and counter-productive force that many adults considered it to be. 

Technology, and specifically the internet, is going through a similar process in education.  Mostly a younger generationally driven shift, technology has been and will continue to gain credibility among professionals in the field.  It will find its place, much like rock and roll.Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart mozart_ico05

If I had any advice to give, it would be to caution the most staunch proponents of emerging technologies in education to not cast this shift as a complete overhaul of how teaching is done.  If we use the rock and roll example, we can clearly see that it did not eliminate the value of other forms of music (classical for example).  Rather, it has become part of a rich landscape of musical form that contributes to the culture and works to draw those to music in a way that would be impossible without rock and roll’s existence.

Technology in schools should compliment the work of the teacher, not replace it.  A great lecture will always be a great lecture.  An engaging Socratic conversation will always add value to a course.  Using technology to teach should operate under that same umbrella.

Somewhere in heaven, Elvis and Mozart may be sharing a drink and wishing they had been around to own an iPod.  That shouldn’t make their contribution to music less valuable. 

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