Over the past two years I have seen some dramatic shifts in an effort to transform New Milford High School into a 21st Century institution of teaching and learning. With a change in mindset and a great deal of support, I have been able to successfully empower my staff to integrate a variety of digital tools, including social media, to engage learners. The other day USA Today writer Greg Toppo highlighted some of the advances we have made in his article entitled "Social Media Find Place in Classroom." I'm not going to lie, I was a very proud principal reading this article as it clearly showed me how far we have come in terms of creating a vision for learning and communicating that is more in line with societal shifts. This vision has now become our reality.
The problem though is that a large majority of stakeholders throughout the world think that the integration of technology is not essential in the classroom. Furthermore, the perception out there is that educators and schools who are utilizing 21st Century tools for teaching and learning are doing a disservice to learners. Here are some of the specific comments from the USA Today article:
- It is a shame they don't worry more about the kids not knowing how to read or write. Most of the high school grads don't even know their time table.
- Stupid educators teaching stupid kids, sad.
- More evidence of the "dumbing-down" of society. Stupid media like USA To-shmay buying into it, of course. Put the cell phones and calculators aways, stay off the waste-o-time websites and GET TO LEARNIN'!
- Okay, now I have heard it all. Digitally literate is not the same as having literacy skills that are useful for employment or in our greater society. This just encourages illiteracy in the skills that are most important to make these kids productive members of society.
- Lowering the bar yet again. I would say that they'll pay for it in the long run, however, I'm finding that the employers are dumbing things for the dumber workforce they are getting. And the sad thing is, they'll never know or care what they are ignorant of.
- Nothing like a digital kid showing up for a hands-on job. Makes for great humor.
Unfortunately the comments above represent the never-ending battle that passionate educators face across the world who understand the pedagogical significance of effective technology integration. I know I am preaching to the choir, but it really angers me that people who have no background in education, have never stepped foot in a school on a regular basis, and are so disconnected from the real world, can make assumptions that ultimately inhibit change. In terms of the context of the USA Today article, social media is NOT replacing anything. At NMHS we place an emphasis on sound pedagogy, and only after this is ensured technology is integrated. All one has to do is read THIS POST to see all that NMHS is doing with and without technology in order to provide our students with a quality education.
It is time to turn the tide! Technology is a tool, just like a blackboard, pencil, paper, or transparency, utilized during the teaching and learning process. The difference though is that it is a dynamic tool that allows students to communicate, connect, collaborate, and create like never before. It allows teachers to measure and schools to promote. Schools will become irrelevant unless they evolve and stay in line with societal shifts. To do so, we must open our eyes and better understand today’s learners. I am proud to say that my school, and many others, are up to this challenge and will continue to ignore the naysayers. If you need even more rationale for effective technology integration in schools read this post by Scott McLeod. George Couros does and exceptional job highlighting some concrete examples of successful technology integration in his post entitled "Tell More Stories."
I hope to expand this post and submit a piece to the Huffington Post. Please consider providing a counter-argument to the statements above in the comment section. Let’s collectively send a powerful message about the important role technology and social media play in preparing all students with a blueprint for success.