Superintendent of Schools, Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District
Google still builds buildings.
Why is the company with the most tech-savvy people in the entire globe—who would have the most capacity to work remotely using the latest digital tools to replicate person-to-person dialogue—still investing in brick and mortar, window panes and carpet? The irony, here, is in the reality that the most tech-savvy people in the world still actually go to work (where they most likely interact online), at an actual place (instead of cyberspace), where they value face-to-face, place-based interactions. The implied contradiction between the tech-savvy (who should be shining examples of virtual accomplishment) and the need for place-based work locations is interesting, and it has major implications for education and the future of constructivist, project-based learning.
Teachers are the best apps.
Do we have an app for hunger? Do we have an app for fetal alcohol syndrome? Do we have an app for verbal abuse, hygiene, or shoddy parenting? Do we have an app for student transiency or inequity? What about neglect, an unstable home-life, or low self esteem? Do we have an app for tears and hugs and love? Yes, actually. We do: Teachers.
Digital natives prefer laptops.
Go to any regional university, and walk through campus. What do you see? At places with the most dense populations of digital natives working in intense academic environments, you will see high usage of digital devices, none of which are tablets. This runs counter to the beloved features that make tablets great: longer battery life, seamless syncing with online stores, fun apps, easy use, and the list goes on. Yet, digital natives—at least in these environments—are turning to laptops.
It’s not the device you have but how you use it.
Having a popular digital device does not correlate to being able to fully utilize one in a productive and collaborative way. The extent to which educators deliberately employ appropriately selected technology devices and applications to cultivate an environment of powerful learning is the essence of being tech-savvy as an educator; it’s not just having a Smartphone, posting to Facebook, or using an interactive whiteboard.
Power up, log on, and step into the stream.
Increasingly, educators are turning to technology not only to amplify their ability to personalize education and elicit higher order thinking, but also to extend their influence beyond the classroom and school day for re-teaching, remediation, sustainable support, etc. Educators are using technology more and more to solve problems of collaboration, global-anytime-anywhere training and development, and real-time communication. This movement has now gone mainstream; indeed, it’s not uncommon anymore to see educators naturally make use of technology. It’s now in plain sight. It’s time for all educators to power up, log on, and step into the stream.
Technology can amplify and extend, but not replace a teacher’s influence.
When I look at the previous five lessons-learned, I also quickly come to a core thesis: Technology amplifies our abilities to communicate, solve problems, professionally develop, and help each other. Technology also extends our influence and potential beyond the normal parameters of a work day. It cannot, however, replace or duplicate empathy, a sense of safety, or compassion. This is why Google still builds buildings. This is why teachers are the best apps.
The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.
Bradford G. Saron, Ed.D. is the Superintendent of Schools, Chippewa Falls Area Unified School District in Wisconsin. He serves on numerous state appointed education committees, teaches in the Educational Leadership Program at Viterbo University, and also directs the WASDA/AWSA Amplified Administrators Program. Dr. Saron blogs regularly at Cognitive Interfund Transfer and was featured as one of eSchool News' Tech-Savvy Superintendents for 2012.