I have finished my review of the Horizon 2010 K-12 Edition from the New Media Consortium. As usual, the report provides some insight into what is happening with technology in education currently, and some ideas about where technology is going in the near future. As a 21st Century principal, there were two areas of the report that interested me. One was the “Five Key Trends Seen as Technology Drivers of Technology Adoptions for the years 2010-2015. That is the substance I focus on with this post. These trends are:
- Technology is increasingly becoming a means of empowering students both as a means of communication and of socializing.
- Technology continues to profoundly affect the way we work, collaborate, communicate, and succeed.
- The perceived value of innovation and creativity is increasing.
- Increased interest in just-in-time alternate, or non-formal avenues of education such as online learning, mentoring, and independent study.
- The way we think of learning environments is changing.
Those administrators who are still fighting the battles against student-use of technology as a means of communication and socializing are apparently going to find themselves losing their war. Just about every single student has a cell phone, even those students who come from limited-income households. Policies and rules that try to govern when and where students access technology for communication purposes are going to become meaningless pursuits. Students are going to have and use these technologies, and they are becoming empowered by their use. They can access information like never before. As the report points out, students may not even have Internet access through a computer at home, but many are gaining access to the Net through their cell phones. They use their phones to not only send text now, but increasingly they can send photos and video messages. They have become composers of information with these communication devices. As far as socialization, they are also empowered through the use of social media such as MySpace, FaceBook, and even YouTube. They can organize in ways never before possible, and as more and more students access these tools, there will only be more opportunities for them to organize.
How technology affects the way we work, collaborate, and communicate is evident every day I walk into my office. Email is still an important part of my own day to day communication, and I still have to answer the occasional phone call. But now I find myself using Skype at least several times a day. I find myself scanning through my Google Reader files looking for ideas. I usually have Twitter running in the background. I try to post on the blog more often. I use wikis and blogs to communicate ideas and information to staff and parents. I carry a smart phone around in order to check email, follow Twitter updates, and access the Internet when I need it. In other words, I maintain a higher level of connectivity to work and to my professional learning network. The online tools “profoundly affected” the way I do my job as an administrator, and I find the way I do my job changing with the technology.
Everyone is calling for innovation and creativity. As the Horizon report points out, everyone now sees the value in these two activities. We are having conversations with our teachers about how we can get away from old teacher-centered approaches and tap into student interest and their natural curiosity to make learning happen. We are giving our students more opportunities for creativity with project-based learning. When talking with committed and passionate teachers, I know longer get the feeling that they think they have learned how to teach and can now sit back and do the same thing year after year. Teachers are talking about their teaching and what works or doesn’t work.
There can be no doubt that interest in online learning opportunities is growing. We had over 40 students enrolled in online virtual classes this past year. Next year I am sure that number will increase. Parents are asking more about these courses. There are also students seeking independent learning opportunities.
After spending the last four months at our redesign high school, I do not see the Horizon trends alarming in any way. These trends are opportunities for the 21st century principal to make 21st century learning a priority.