In light of our recent research into hybrid schools, and the potential they possess for individualizing the instruction of 21st Century Learners, I have been reviewing the book Curriculum 21 – Essential Education for a Changing World, edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs. This publication provides a good overview of the types, and scope, of pedagogical shifts that need to occur in our schools.
Throughout the book, an emphasis is placed on the importance of placing function before form. As we discuss serious reform measures, especially those that involve educational technology, it is easy to get caught up in the “tools and resources” and try to force things that just don’t fit into our curriculum, or truly address the needs of our students. We have all seen it before (in fact, we might be guilty of it). Using a PowerPoint to convey information, when a collaborative project might be more appropriate. Spending time in the computer lab typing a paper, when the time would be better spent by having students critique and edit the writing of their peers. Technology for the sake of technology is not necessarily a good thing.
With considerable advances in educational technology, and a seemingly endless array of “proposed solutions” — software, web 2.0 tools, digital curriculum, etc. — there is a significantly increased responsibility on the part of educators to “do our homework” and find tools that serve a clear purpose and address the true needs of our kids (see Five Skills for 21st Century Learners). Implementing technology without considerable prior thought regarding its function is akin to a dog and pony show–it might be cute, flashy and entertaining, but it doesn’t really serve a purpose. Technology does not make the teaching profession easier, but it can make it more effective, and its appropriate utilization is critical to our students.