Greetings from Kingston, Jamaica where I am here for the next couple of days to work with faculty at the University of the West Indies. UWI wanted me to come specifically to work with their people on integrating technology – “twenty-first century” technology – into classroom teaching. After a long travel day yesterday, today I had some face time with the UWI math department (where we talked at length about flipped learning and how this could be useful for their programs) and tonight, I gave what is known as the UWI/Guardian Group Premium Teaching Open Lecture, titled “Twenty-First Century Technology Serving Twenty-First Century Learners”.
Here are the slides:
And here is the TL;DR. (Should I call it TL;DW for “didn’t watch?”)
- To understand the proper use of technology in the classroom, you first have to situate it in the proper context, namely of the people we are educating and the world that they live in. So before we talk about 21st century technology, let’s consider the characteristics of 21st century college students and 21st century higher education.
- Students are living in a world of accelerating change. The rate of change is increasing so quickly that any education that is predicated on a scarcity model of information, which stresses merely the coverage and retention of content knowledge, is irrelevant to them. This kind of education won’t survive the next few years.
- Students also have a great need to find a place in that world in which they live. An education that does not teach them how to find that place, is also irrelevant and won’t survive.
- Students today have no patience for the irrelevant. That puts much of contemporary higher education in a precarious spot.
- Here in Jamaica, you’ve inherited the British higher education system which for the last 850 years has produced some of the greatest minds and intellectual works of all time. Are we really saying that this is no longer enough? Answer: As much as we need to value our traditions, they can lose relevance if they become ends in themselves. Changing higher education to meet the needs of students is not forsaking the intellectual traditions of the past but getting back to them, by focusing on education as a person-to-person activity intending to produce original, creative thinkers who do great things.
- The technology of the 21st century – characterized by accessibility – can be a powerful tool for extending students’ minds. (Here we looked at some examples using Desmos and YouTube and talked about flipped learning a bit.)
So this was not really a talk about technology so much as a talk about learners, their needs and challenges, and how higher ed may or may not be serving those students well – and then finally after we understand all of that, we can speak about what technology can do.
Tomorrow, I’ll be following up on the keynote by giving a workshop where we will actually get a lot of hands-on time with specific tools. I’ve picked out four tools to play with that fulfill my requirements for truly accessible technology: cheap, portable (in the physical and technological sense), and easy to learn. And they have to be useful to a broad spectrum of people because the participants are from all over campus. Those tools are Google Forms, Google Docs, Screencast-O-Matic, and MindMup. All of those are free, usable on mobile devices, and require little to no training. I’m looking forward to seeing what uses the participants come up with.