Smartphones are everywhere. Literally. According to the Pew Research Center, about 77% of U.S. adults say they own a Smartphone, which is 42% more than just 7 years ago. Even in an article more than two years old, teenage ownership of Smartphones is reported at nearly 80%. These are what we call realities. The same was true when horse drawn buggies were replaced by automobiles. Wagon trains replaced by locomotives. Bus and car travel replaced by airplanes. Food cooked over an open fire to microwaves. I think you get the point. New technologies became prevalent and the old ones faded into history. It’s called evolution.
When processes and products change as a result of evolution, a person has two options, ok maybe three.
Option 1: Adapt and try to ride the wave
Option 2: Fight back
Option 3: Bury your head in the sand and pretend that things are not fundamentally changing
In education, I feel that we have an obligation to first and foremost be informed. We have to know what changes have occurred outside the walls of our school as well as try to anticipate what is coming next. Here’s the reason: we have dozens, or even hundreds, of students counting on us for that each year. You may not like that technology plays such a predominant role in our lives...ALL of our lives. If you are reading this right now, you are benefiting from advances in technology. You might think that it is devaluing relationships, making us apathetic, and is wreaking havoc on the employment landscape. These can certainly be true - but only if we let them.
I understand that not everyone will embrace the evolution and role that technology plays in our lives, but the fact of the matter is, it's not going to stop or slow down. It’s is only going to escalate. What is your role as a teacher? I mean REALLY, what is your role? Don Wettrick cites this role quite often as he interviews thought leaders, entrepreneurs and change agents on his StartEdUp Podcast. By the way, do yourself a favor and load some of those episodes up in your library! As he states, and I wholeheartedly agree, our job is to prepare students for their future. Period. It's not to prepare them for a future that you wish could be. It’s not to prepare them for jobs of the past. Its for their future. Although there are many, many unknowns, the one thing that we know with 100% certainty is that their ability to effectively use technology to create, collaborate, communicate, and automate will be essential to their survival in the workplace.
How do we accomplish this? We start by cutting back on the time we give kids to use to technology to consume and increase the opportunities for students to create and innovate. There are a number of studies that are drawing correlations to the increase in teen smartphone usage to depression and suicide. As a parent and teacher this is terrifying. I will leave it to you do the reading for yourself, but some of the correlations I have read stated that this is a result of everything from body-shaming to cyber bullying. A recent Time article even referenced a clinical explanation of link between, “media multitasking—texting, using social media and rapidly switching among smartphone-based apps—with lower gray-matter volume in the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region involved in emotion processing and decision making.”
Back to Don, he had a conversation with Seth Godin about the recent school shooting and Seth said something extremely insightful. He said “a cat can’t be curious and angry at the same time.” He went on to explain that if we are engaging kids in meaningful, authentic, validating work that fosters curiosity, maybe, just maybe, they can stay out or come out of the darkness. The kind of darkness I’m talking about is the kind that makes mass shootings and suicide seem justifiable and the only option to kids.
If we refuse to give students opportunities to learn how to effectively use technology to create meaningful content, make connections, and illustrate their learning, then we are truly doing them more harm than good. In his book, Launch, John Spencer does am amazing job of illustrating the new “digital divide.” It’s no longer the division of students that have technology and those that so not, but its now a “Creative Chasm between those who passively consume and those who actively create” (p. 18). Ask yourself this: which student is better positioned to meet the employment needs of the workforce once they graduate? Better yet, which student is going to be able to carve their own path in a workforce where freelancers will make up more than 50% of the workforce.
So how are you handling technology’s evolution? Are you flourishing, fleeing, or fighting against it. But, before you answer on behalf of you children and students, maybe, like me, you need to put your own phone down and work on improving communication with those that matter.
Today's ideas come to us from Mr. Kevin Schamel. Kevin began teaching in 2006 and become one of RCS’s eLearning Specialists, where he has been helping to support and coach teachers, students, and administrators since 2014. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from Miami University and his M.Ed from IU East. Kevin comes from a family of educators, is married to a middle school math teacher, Kristin, and has two wonderful boys at home, Jaxon and Greyson.