Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's a digital whirl ...

The Observer recently ran one installment of the New York Times series on "Grading the Digital School," focusing on how the nearby Mooresville Graded School District has emerged as a national model for digital learning.

For those who are trying to make sense of the technology revolution, the whole series is well worth a read. The Mooresville article focused on the benefits of the widespread use of MacBooks, but the series shows just how complex the decisions facing educators and families are.

There are serious questions about whether the benefits justify the expense (see the first and second stories in the series). There are companies that stand to make huge profits doing their best to wow educators. There are schools resisting the notion that young children need digital devices, and educators worried about the tradeoffs that come with a surge in technospending.

Meanwhile, I'm working my way through "From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom,"  a collection of essays by education/technology writer Marc Prensky,  who introduced the idea that today's young people speak the native language of technology in a way that we older  "immigrants"  can never fully master.  Prensky argues that until educators drop their focus on the past,  stop fretting about short attention spans and create a radically new way to prepare young people for their future,  schools will function more like jails than like beacons of enlightenment.

"For 21st century students,"  Prensky writes,  "the classroom is a dark,  dark place,  compared to what they already know and can find out  --  and its contents provides no more useful light to them than would a tiny 10-watt flashlight on a sunny beach."

And on Tuesday, LaTarzja Henry, head of communications for CMS, gave the school board a quick tour of the changes in technology a high school senior has experienced in her 13 years of school.  Henry is  making a pitch for two multimedia specialists who can keep the district up to date on social media, webstreaming, video production and monitoring what people are saying about CMS.  (I couldn't help noticing that in CMSworld, there is apparently no daily newspaper covering education in 2012.  Wishful thinking?)

It's a fascinating time to be engaged with education,  and more than a little daunting.  Among the over-50 crowd,  I feel like I'm doing a better-than-average job of keeping up.  Unfortunately, that's a lot like being a pretty good reader for a 4-year-old.

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