The other day I saw a post going around twitter. It was called “Top 100 Twitter Tools for teachers“.
You don’t need a list of 100 tools. What you need is a framework for evaluating the technology that interests you.
In no particular order, these are five big ideas that teachers should look for when deciding between this digital tool or that one.
1. Chance favours the connected mind
Steve Johnson explains the fascinating link between coffee and Isaac Newton. The point you should take away is this: no longer is it “Fortune favours the brave” but rather “Chance favours the connected mind.” Teachers talk about being brave and trying new things in their classroom. If these new ideas are not driven by fostering connections between you and your students and or your students and the rest of the world (or both) then you are not leveraging the lessons that we’ve learned in the Silicon Age. As the tech scene continues to expand, look for applications and tools that create connected minds. Chance will favour them.
2. Learning is an emergent phenomenon
Emergence is the simple idea that something extraordinarily complex can arise from something very simple. We should be requiring that the tools given to us from the tech space be flexible enough to allow us to make our path and play our own game. Sugata Mirta from MIT is doing amazing work on this subject and clearly demonstrates: when selecting what tools you want your students to use, pick the ones that are open, transparent and robust.
An app that can publish in a 100 different templates seems great. Better is the app that publishes in zero templates, but allows students to make their own if they wish.
3. The more technology innovates, the less it looks like technology
Take any technology and chart its progress. The more advanced it becomes, the less advanced it looks. The iPhone is a small black rectangle you hold in your hand and talk to. The first modern computer consumed entire rooms. Our rooms have gone from having no wires to many to having none again. The wires are disappearing. The education space is no exception.
In fact, the classroom of the future will look a lot like the classrooms of the past: learners sitting in circles, or not, and sharing ideas. Discussions occurring spontaneously around relevant topics. People coming and going and classic structure appearing only when the needs arise. We are quickly approaching a time in human history when the stepping-stone technologies that got us to where we are can be innovated beyond so that we can return to where we started, but hyperconnected and hyper-empowered. Its an exciting thought.
Ask yourself, does this piece of technology add to my workflow, or subtract? Look for the ones that subtract.
4. Ability not Age
Ken Robinson asks the simple question: “Why do we still group learners by age?”. If the place of learning is virtual then so too should the place of the learner in the spectrum of the curriculum. Age is a great indicator of developmental growth and intellegence, but its a poor indicator when cast in the light of our current curriculum outcomes. Teachers should be looking at technology that enables vertical grouping. These are the ones that will become the future of how our students learn.
5. Reeds Law
Great teachers don’t often like to get too theoretical about why their teaching works; it just does. But there are some important Maths behind the science of connections and it drives not only the tech scene but also the education space. As the two continue to converge the power of Reeds Law becomes more widely felt.
As teachers we should be demanding that our technology exploit this principal: for every group size of x, there are 2^x ways that group can be organised. In practical terms ask yourself: what types of groups am I forming in the classroom and why? Am I streaming based on only one variable? Can I do better? Does my technology enable this or hinder it?
Jesse & the Teacher Time team