Thursday, December 19, 2013

Your Chance to Speak Up, America (And Why You Should)

 “Take out your devices and begin researching animals found in your biomes.” On a recent visit to a local high school, I was taken aback by the teacher’s instructions. Immediate access. Incredible efficiency. Genuine engagement. Each student group huddled around two or three mobile devices scrolling vigorously, jotting down notes, and actively conducting (what looked like) research.

But then, I thought back to an unfortunate technology-related incident I was witness to last year: a cell phone stolen from an unattended backpack, used to photograph unsupervised students standing and laying atop a teacher’s desk, making inappropriate faces and gestures which ultimately lead to tears and suspensions.
There may be no way to allow students to use their own devices at school without risks, but certainly ignoring this possibility as a way to enhance learning would be unwise. As would, passing up the opportunity to contribute to the discussion about the future of digital learning and the role technology will play.

The Future of Digital Learning: What Do You Think?

We cannot prepare teachers or create schools for today; we must envision the classrooms and learning of tomorrow. If we want to prepare teachers for, and create, future learning environments, we must embrace the role technology will play in the classrooms of tomorrow. So how do we accurately evaluate the role technology plays, and the ways it can be leveraged for maximum impact in the future of education? Take the popular, but debated trend mentioned earlier: the use of student-owned mobile devices in the classroom.

You probably have an opinion and, perhaps, a few questions. How are these devices used during the school day? How do students, teachers, parents, and administrators feel about it? What are the specific benefits and concerns associated with this shift from the traditional structure of learning?

Now, take this issue and picture the teacher typing her syllabus and guidelines at her computer the week before school begins; or your local principal meeting with his/her staff to compile and craft the yearly handbook of school policies; or a school board discussing personal device usage before adopting an annual budget. Each individual has an opinion, informed by experience and maybe a dated national report, or a newspaper article about a nearby district who reported increased test scores and engagement with personal device usage. But, do they have your thoughts or the current, unfiltered views of your school community?

Just as we would not allow a doctor to diagnose an illness or create a treatment plan without listening to our current concerns, we must approach the future of education and the role technology will play with the same attentiveness.

Make A Broader Impact

Across the education spectrum, at a national level down to the classroom your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or future employee sits in each day, your voice can either inform policy decisions or go unheard. Your views and experiences concerning technology trends, like personal device usage (and so many others in education), are critical and go well beyond whether a student can or cannot use their phone or tablet at school. Their extended reach affects privacy and confidentiality legislation, funding allocations, internet accessibility, access to information, connectivity, global competitiveness and, most importantly, how today’s learners and tomorrow’s labor force will navigate a future in which the rate of progress is greater than at any time in history.

‘Tis the Season to Speak Up


In this season of giving, be part of Speak Up America 2013. Donate twenty minutes of your time today to take the National Speak Up Survey. Join over 3.3 million students, educators, parents, administrators, and community members who have “spoken up” since 2003—a dataset representing the largest collection of authentic feedback from key educational stakeholders about the digital learning. Speak Up closes on December 20th, so NOW is the time to participate. Take the online Speak Up survey at http://www.speakup4schools.org/speakup2013/.