Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Technologies, Schooling, and Relevance

from Occupy Wall Street (Reilly, 2011)

From the NY Times today:

“Every time I go to a new country, I buy a SIM card and activate the Internet and download the map to locate myself,” Osama Aljasem, a 32-year-old music teacher from Deir al-Zour, Syria, explained as he sat on a broken park bench in Belgrade, staring at his smartphone and plotting his next move into northern Europe.
“I would never have been able to arrive at my destination without my smartphone,” he added. “I get stressed out when the battery even starts to get low.”

Aljasem is one of the tens of thousands of migrants entering the Balkans, seeking a different way of life. According to the NY Times, WhatsApp, a cross platform messaging app is said to be an essential tool of migrants from Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


My son told us yesterday that he and his gaming team are now ranked first in the United States and third internationally after the last round of competitions. His five member team hails from the United States and Canada. He'd like to attain the semi-pro level in the game in the next year or so as he is now ranked just below semi-pro. His team members range from 16 to 19 years old. This year's international pro competition paid close to a million dollars to the winners and each year sees that winning pot increase sharply as do the numbers of those watching and attending the competition in Europe where E-sports are a rage.


Later today, my husband will undergo video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).  A tiny camera (thoracoscope) and surgical instruments will be inserted into his chest, between ribs, through several small incisions. The thoracoscope will transmits images of the inside of his chest onto a video monitor, guiding the surgeon. The surgeon is not a young man. He is not a 'digital native' by any stretch--given his 40 years of experience. Fortunately, for us, his digital status has little bearing on his skill or his commitment to learn what must be learned in order to practice his work. He'll text me when he's out of surgery so we can speak.


In the next few weeks or so, most students here will have returned to a U.S. school where technologies will be doled out like prized pigs and/or kept concealed at the bottom of school bags by kids depending on each school district's definition of acceptable use. Technologies, like smart phones, will continue to be confiscated like contraband at some school sites. At other sites, teachers and administrators of the 'non-digital persuasion' will be allowed to pretend that the technological revolutions that are happening here and across the world do not affect them and by definition, their students. You can almost hear them uttering, "No need to alter how I teach."

Now, I am not suggesting educators should or should not have opinions about technologies and learning.  I'd expect most to have strong opinions. What I am saying is that as some educators and school systems continue to work as if it were the 1950s, the world beyond those school doors is quickly showing how irrelevant such positioning is.

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