On Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to hear John Avalon speak at Iowa State University. John is the author of Wingnuts, How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America. Although his message, doesn’t have a direct relevance to what I usually write about, I feel compelled to build off of his message.
John’s book focuses on how the extremists on both sides in politics “came to dominate the country’s political dialogue” and his book along with his No Labels organization aim to show the way back to a smarter national conversation. The hope in his message centers around the fact that there are many more people in the middle than at either extreme in politics. Building concensus and developing a voice for that large group in the middle is truly what he is pushing for.
It seems that more and more, the hostile environment that exists in politics is beginning to be seen in education. Many states are currently in the middle of fierce battles over education budgets and unions. My state of Iowa has also been debating universal preschool, and I’m guessing we’ll soon be moving into a debate about merit pay for educators.
Those of us involved with using technology to transform education have also certainly been involved in conversations with the “non-believers”. Those individuals who don’t seem to believe that technology can have a positive impact on schools or students. The challenge for us, and them, is to build consensus. Rather than focusing on how technology can enhance so many things, maybe our conversation needs to start with what things we want our schools to teach. If we can first agree that we need to teach collaboration, research, presentation, inquiry, etc., we at least have developed a common goal. The challenge is then showing how technology can help better teach each of those skills. If it doesn’t, then we need to consider if it is the right tool.