Dear fellow educators,
I'm going to ask you to forget about technology. Don't teach it and don't aim for its use. It changes too often and is too unpredictable to focus on, and there's plenty of better stuff to focus on in our classrooms.
What should be our focus? Here are a few suggestions: Connecting our students to their world and empowering them to have a voice in their community. Making sure they have opportunities to learn to work with compassion for others. Giving them experiences for doing and learning things that are important to them so that they learn the value of their thoughts and the power of being actively engaged with the work they're doing. Bringing them and their work in contact with experts and leaders in the fields they're studying so that our students learn to leverage their connections and networks to continue their learning beyond our classes and to make a name for themselves.
Of course, little of that stuff happens nowadays without the use of technology. Blogs and websites allow our students to collect and prepare their work for sharing with others. Twitter and other social networks make it simple to reach out to experts, leaders and heroes. Computers enable anyone to shift the major media trend of the last 50 years - consumption - and to create something of their own in a revolution of human expression. The universe of resources and tools in each of our student's pockets is the most powerful game changer in the history of human knowledge - exponentially beyond the printing press. We are doing our students a disservice if we do not help them learn to value it for more than funny cat videos and sharing selfies.
So focus on meaningful work and don't teach technology, but don't dare try to work without it. If you don't know how to use Google Drive to organize your classwork and facilitate collaboration, learn to. If you're not clear on how to connect with others via Twitter or Google+, join up, stand on the sidelines and observe for a while - then contribute when the time is right. To help you acquire new skills there are online classes, video walk-throughs, blog-fulls of tips and tricks, and hundreds of students who are more than willing to help you play and experiment. Don't be afraid or ashamed to try something, fail, and ask for help. Trust me: mistakes equal learning, and those times that it works will be some of the most powerful in your entire career. Share those successes - and the lessons of your failures - with others. Curate your own connections to continue your own learning. Take the risk.
To quote SLA founder and principal Chris Lehmann, "technology must be like oxygen in our schools: ubiquitous, necessary, and invisible." We need to have it, use it, and then stop talking about it so much.
Quality teaching has always been measured by its value to its society and its relevance to its students. Today, that means helping students cultivate rich media literacy, strong critical thinking, and creative innovation in a technology infused world. As those whose job it is to educate, we must have those skills ourselves in order to ensure we can model and evaluate the learning of our students.