Over the past month, much has been made of the potential impact of the kindle and ipad on education. Good summary of the excitement found here -http://blog.xplana.com/2010/01/the-kindle-the-ipad-and-higher-education/ While i agree that carrying a kindle is better than lugging around a half dozen text books, I believe that merely digitizing textbook content is a misguided and short sighted use of the Internet to improve the educational experience. Why do we continue to perpetuate the little red school house method of learning in an age where our ability to process and communicate information goes way beyond the digital equivalent of pen and paper.
Unfortunately, the existing ecosystem of educational professionals, book publishers and school boards is trapped in a document based paradigm established centuries ago when words on paper were the only means to share information. Ten years ago many people recognized the web’s potential to transform the classroom. And as a result millions of dollars were spent on pcs and connected classrooms. However, this money was wasted as the teaching method and the teachers themselves did not change to exploit the new tools and technologies. So here we go again. Instead of the connected laptop we have a digital book, and once the dust settles we will find that little has changed because the teaching paradigm and practioners are still the same. Instead of doing the same thing with new tools why not come up with new methods. A new pedagogy that achieves learning goals and objectives within a reenvisioned learning environment that is interactive, social, global and nonlinear.
Geography, History and Language – students learn about other parts of the world from each other. Using video conferencing, shared documents and buddy browsing students can take turns preparing, delivering and participating in lessons. The teacher becomes a coach that enables the dialog within a pedagogically sound framework.
Physics, mathematics, chemistry and biology can all be better communicated and absorbed through virtual and physical simulations than chalk on a blackboard. Again teacher manages context and coaches students who absorb and apply the content.
Sociology, psychology and economic concepts can be more effectively delivered within the context of a role playing based video game. Why not use sim city or world of warcraft to have students understand the implications of their decisions.
Fortunately, some folks like at NYU’s Games For Learning Institute http://g4li.org/ recognize the opportunity and are starting to address it. I hope that efforts like this lead to a dramatic shift in how we approach education in an Internet powered classroom so we can leave the little red school house behind.