Okay, so hold that story in mind and now let me tell you another story I heard today from a different colleague, Celeste. She explained how one of our high school students who is severely language impaired (unable to make speech sounds) and wheelchair bound responded when she handed him an iPad for his use, 24/7. He looked up at her and mouthed the single word, WoW! He did this repeatedly, (something in the neighborhood of 60 times), clutching the iPad to his chest. Within the first 24 hour period, he was demonstrating empowerment, by controlling communication via his iPad. In many ways, his actions were tantamount to fire discovery and other paradigmatic changers. The means to express and control communication rested in his hands.
So juxtapose those two stories and let's add to the mix, a blurb from the recent essay, Literate Arts in a Global World: Reframing Social Networking as Cosmopolitan Practice, authored by Glynda Hull and Amy Stornaiuolo (2010) who write:
...at this historical moment, locating points of entry for 21st-century tools and practices into formal as well as informal educational spaces seems tantamount to a moral imperative, with important implications for access and equity...the rewards could not be greater, or the risk of failure more grave, for educating a citizenry able and willing to communicate with digital tools across differences in a radically interconnected yet divided world (p. 85).If we return to the question of greatness and teaching, I am less sure if that question is even relevant. Given the story of the boy who is empowered via a tool, I would wonder what would motivate any teacher to want to remain steadfast in his or her commitment to not afford students the occasion to learn how to use technological tools and practices, and then do so. In many ways the first scenario seems to be more of a question about adult responsibility and moral imperative. I wonder, Can a teacher be socially just while knowingly ignoring tools and practices that learners could use to empower themselves? Is such "practice" akin to forced servitude?
I am wondering what you think.