This article was originally published by Sam Gliksman at http://iPadEducators.ning.com
In his book “Start with Why” and the accompanying TED talk, author Simon Sinek claims that we’re all very clear about “what” we do. In fact, you often define yourself by what you do — “I’m a teacher” for example. You focus heavily on “how” you should do whatever it is you do and usually develop a routine to make it easier.
Very few people or organizations however constantly discuss and debate “WHY” they do something. It’s only by reflecting on the question of “why” that enables us to develop and articulate a meaningful vision for what we should be doing … and that certainly applies to education. Let me explain.
We each have a concept of what constitutes an ideal education even though it’s likely we’ll disagree on many of its components. There is however one common thread that most of us might agree upon. As strange as it may sound, we aren’t teaching children to become good students in school. After all, school is just a transitionary stage of their lives. Our objective is to educate and prepare them for life outside school. What’s the purpose of helping a student ace a test if the learning required for that test has no real-world meaning for the student? Ideally, we’d like to ensure they develop the necessary skills to become happy, productive adults and solid citizens in their lives outside school.
We live in an era of exponential change and asking “why” helps constantly evaluate whether we’re preparing our students appropriately for their lives outside school. We’re human and it’s a natural tendency to fall into routines — to concentrate on “what” we do and “how” without regard for the question of whether it’s still relevant. We continue following the same educational routines and processes without asking whether they are really preparing children for life in an ever changing society awash in technology.
Purchasing and using technology to address questions of “how” we teach won’t advance education.
If we use technology to reinforce the same age-old educational processes then why bother? Some examples:
- We often use technology to project a document or post it online instead of handing it out.
- We still have students read a chapter and answer the questions at the end but now they can use technology to submit typed responses. In some cases, they can even submit them online.
- We can continue to demand that students memorize facts for a test and use tools such as flashcard apps to help drill the facts.
- We still lecture from the front of the room but now we have a digital whiteboard to enhance the process.
The fundamental processes haven’t changed. Asking “why” and looking outside the walls of our schools may lead us to different visions and new directions.
- Why only focus on text for exchanging information when the world now communicates with a variety of multimedia and media fluency is a valuable skill in the workplace?
- Why continue using the same old textbooks when we can access updated information on any topic within seconds using the internet or digital books?
- Why focus on static, delivery and memorization of educational content when that content pool is growing at unprecedented speeds and it’s clearly more important for students to be skilled in finding, analyzing and using information as they need it?
Using technology effectively in education requires much, much more than just technical skills. Instead, through the use of technology we have the opportunity to sculpt educational visions that address the real needs of children entering a new world.
Are we preparing students for 20th century testing or preparing them for life after school? If we plan on pushing for more technology use then we should all be asking “why”.