Digital technology is changing the way we use our brains (Sparrow, Liu, & Wegner, 2011). Instant access to the world’s knowledge and wisdom and to virtually any of the more than two billion connected human on the planet ushered humans into a new age. Increasingly, humans are using machines not just as tools, but as extensions of themselves.
Our relationship with machines is ever more intimate as we transfer the burden of memory from the brain to the device in a kind of collective hybrid memory (Clowes, 2012; Kurzweil, 2005). Given this radical change in our access to information, we must reconsider how we engage learners in experiences that build capacity and skills relevant to the new age.
21st Century Learning offers a framework for understanding teaching and learning in today’s milieu: relevance, integration, knowledge transfer, meta-cognition, independence, collaboration, forthrightness, and technological facility (Saavedra & Opfer, 2012).
To be relevant, educational experiences have to reflect the community and society being serving. The economy today, heavily invested in emerging technology, demands a skill set that assumes a close relationship with technology. Beyond retrieval of vast amounts of information, learners must manage and make, communicate, and apply relevant and creative understandings connecting and collaborating with others both near and far across a wide array of content areas (Davies, Fidler, & Gorbis, 2011).
The educational enterprise needs technology innovators to forge ahead and discover the learning affordances of new technologies. We want students’ experiences inside school to reflect the kind of experiences they will have outside of school. Better still, we should embrace the possibilities opened by technology and guided by relevant pedagogy to have students learning in authentic spaces as part of the community. Technology can bridge the gap between theory and practice making learning meaningful by situating it in the world in authentic situations.
Work in the field of Education Technology addresses each of the following broad areas:
- Exploration– embracing the newest technologies and innovations and seeking applications (finding problems for the solutions)
- Validation– studying the above explorations to determine best practice, legitimacy, efficacy, efficiency (does the solution fix the problem)
- Integration– matching a need with an appropriate and valid technology solution (applying working solutions to clear problems)
The Education Technologist is one who can assess the need, identify an intervention or opportunity for positive change, offer a technology solution, and structure learning experiences for successful integration of the technology.
Technology in education, for me, offers a new way of doing school that untethers us from the brick and mortar classrooms. It can get learners out into the world learning from content area specialists or practitioners of their fields of interest. Technology offers infinitely customizable learning experiences all the time and everywhere in a way that is responsive to users and the world around them.
Clowes, R. W. (2012). Hybrid memory, cognitive technology and self. In Proceedings of the 5th AISB Symposium on Computing and Philosophy (pp. 2–12).
Davies, A., Fidler, D., & Gorbis, M. (2011). Future work skills. Palo Alto, California. Retrieved from http://www.urv.cat/media/upload/arxius/CAE/oprofessional/future_work_skills_2020.pdf
Kurzweil, R. (2005). The singularity is near: When humans transcend biology. London: Penguin Group.
Saavedra, A. R., & Opfer, V. D. (2012). Learning 21st-century skills requires 21st-century teaching. Phi Delta Kappan, 94(2), 8–13.
Sparrow, B., Liu, J., & Wegner, D. M. (2011). Google effects on memory: cognitive consequences of having information at our fingertips. Science (New York, N.Y.), 333(6043), 776–778. doi:10.1126/science.1207745