Friday, December 6, 2013

It's Never Been About the Technology

(For an update read which relates to the below comments)

I remember the excitement and enthusiasm I had as a Biology teacher from the anticipation of using technology in the classroom.  My hope was I could use the technology to bring learning from a different perspective and pass on that enthusiasm for new learning.

I made it a must to attend Macworld Conference in the 90's because I saw something within a company and a group of enthusiasts that had potential to help our learning and teaching.  I wanted to capture that innovation, expectation, enthusiasm and the special culture of growth and learning that was evident at the show and among the employees and vendors.  Mind you, there were few if any education vendors at the show.  I wanted what these folks were introducing and presenting to rub off on me and my students.  I wanted to keep up with the technology and see where it was going, and how I could apply any part of that to my classroom and my professional growth.  

Later in my career, as a site principal, I made it a point to send a group of teachers annually to the show so that "culture" would rub off on them.  Frankly, that type of energy and air of innovation was missing in many of our classrooms.  My question was, why can't our classrooms and schools be "hopping" with that type of desire for learning and receiving new information?

Is it the technology or is it the culture that drives technology?  And is it the learning and type of work that goes on in an organization that drives technology to be so useful and applicable to achieving new things in our own lives?  I remember the anticipation Apple enthusiasts had as they lived for the "aha" moment when Steve Jobs would introduce the latest and greatest.  

What excited them?  What brought about that moment described as almost magical?  It was something not only new and innovative, but I remember thinking about what this technology could do - how it could improve our lives and how it could be useful for us personally.  
I always believed and remain believing we can harness that enthusiasm and excitement and create a special culture that leverages learning with teachers and students.  We can generate excitement not so much about the technology, but we look forward to and create that anticipation of the possibilities that lie in front of all of us.  We cultivate a vision of the powerful learning technology creates for our learning and lives.  I see where school  becomes a place of opportunity and entrepreneurism with the enthusiasm that comes toward a fresh and bold approach to what learning could look like.

When Steve Jobs rolled out iTunes, I thought that was brilliant from a marketing point of view in how he "disrupted" the music industry, but I also saw how we could take media and make it available in a mobile environment.  That gave us educators and our students the open door to have access to media 24/7 at just about any location!!  From a learning point of view, that opens up a whole new world for all of us: students and educators.  This is what excites us.  However, those of us who have seen the potential to the change we have hoped could exist in the classroom have also been commensurately frustrated with the disparity between the "Macworld like" environment and the classroom.

Great companies create great products, and their excitement is bolstered and confirmed with the introduction and successes of those products.  Great educators and great schools create a great product of learning, and they do so with innovation and excitement with or without technology.  It just so happens technology is a "must" tool that is a force multiplier to innovation, creativity and a passion for learning.