I don’t teach in the 17th century.
More pointedly, I don’t teach in a 17th century school. I never have.
About a week ago, this quotation from Don Tapscott got tweeted out from a webinar he was doing with Discovery Education Network:
We have the very best schools that 17th century tech can deliver.
Granted, I’m not aware of the context of the quotation.
But, that’s twitter – providing context-free snippets since 2007.
I’d really appreciate it if Tapscott would not say things like this. If he said more, I’d really appreciate it if other people didn’t push out pieces of thoughts.
It’s not that I don’t see the value in making generalizations about all members of a group. When has that ever gone wrong?
Science Leadership Academy is well beyond 17th-century tech.
Phoenix Academy, my previous school, was well beyond 17th-century tech.
Sarasota Middle School, my very first school, was well beyond 17th-century tech.
The counterargument is simple:
These three schools do not represent the norm.
I can’t agree with that. I’ve seen many schools across the country creating amazing content owned by learners.
Look at the work Karl is doing at Arapahoe High School is doing.
Look at the thinking Bud is doing at St. Vrain Valley School District is doing.
Look at the creating Ben is doing.
Look at the connecting Monika is doing.
Look at the pushing Dan is doing.
Look at the teaching Diana is doing.
So long as we continue to say our schools are failing, we’ll never notice success. The statement of failure is generally wrapped around the metric of standardized test scores. While they provide a snapshot of ability, I think we’re all on board the train of thought that recognizes they don’t provide a complete understanding of learners’ understandings and abilities.
Stop asking what’s wrong. Start asking what’s right.
My follow-up question is this. How much tech does it take to push a school into the post-modern age?
Don’t worry about answering, I’ve done some figuring. The official answer:
Three netbooks, one digital projector and a class set of T1-83s.
Aside from avoiding generalizations, we should, perhaps, start to move our thinking to the globalized approach folks have been hoping their kids would adopt.
It might give some perspective.
Schools without electricity in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa are operating without any tech to speak of because the ups and downs of a generator would likely damage any equipment in which they invested.
Schools on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya have graveyards of second-hand monitors donated by well-meaning businesses. The monitors don’t work, and the schools can’t afford to have them properly disposed of.
When Tapscott makes this assertion, and again, I don’t have context, and others re-tweet, perhaps a little humility and perspective are in order.
We’re on the way to building amazing temples of ideas across the world. The teachers mentioned above and countless others I’ve met are working to make learning what it can be. More to the point, they’re meeting with tremendous success.
They’re doing it without racing anywhere.
Those schools without electricity in South Africa, they’re about to harness the power of mobile technologies.
Those schools with the monitor graveyard in Kenya, turns out you only need a handful of working computers to connect to the world.
I’m not certain I’m teaching to the full extent of what 21st-century tech can deliver – 2099 is a fair piece away – but I’m doing alright. So are a lot of others – today.