For years educational technology specialists have yielded the Horizon Report as the prophecy on the future scope of educational technology in our schools. Since 2002, the NRC has published the report which focuses on recent and upcoming trends in edtech and for years we have tried to incorporate new technologies and introduce our colleagues to the ways of the future only to be met with derision and laughter.
How often have those colleagues said: Why fix what ain't broke? The way that we teach is the way that I learned and students learn with direct instruction, worksheets and practice multiple choice questions. Those are the people who have always referred to digital resources as “bells and whistles” which don’t really teach. For years I fought back against the monotony and the common thread but I was the odd one.
It's amazing how all it took was a few weeks and a global health crisis to change everything. Really all it took was the horrible response about the pandemic from the US to take educators from across the country and throw them into a living horizon report.
Up until 2020 the Horizon Report has always given forecasts as to when you can predict to see specific tech in classrooms from immediate (less than a year to a year), to soon (2-3 years) to future (4-5 years). It's amazingly coincidental how they gave up on that practice this year for the 2020 report. They explained that it wasn't considered the most informative aspect to the report since for years some technologies waited patiently on the list of upcoming edtech, never fully reaching mainstream adoption.
It took a national crisis for the people who could never imagine the adoption of this technology to, not only see how it could be useful, but to start singing its praises. If we were to have spent these years on creating good practices and having educators learn these new technologies instead of being resistant to change, then when the pandemic hit we would have been in a much better position. The reality is it's so hard for many of us to change what's so comforting and what we already know.
So we don't change until we're forced to and that's what this was.
This was all of us being forced to acknowledge the technologies that have been developed in the past decade. Those technologies have changed the way we access information, how we socialize and how we learn. We need to adapt to this new world and as educators, we need to keep up or else we are teaching our students about a world that no longer exists. When information is so easily accessible and digital resources are developed to personalize learning for individual students, the role of the educator changes from content delivery to facilitator.
This may be the most uncertain and stressful time period this century, but I always look for the silver lining. The silver lining here is that we're being forced to really rethink the way that we do things. And, because the status quo is not as comfortable as it once was, we really have to think about if we are attached to past practices because we're comforted by having learned that way, or if we really believe that that's the best way that people learn. I believe it was the former. Once people realize the benefits technology presents in education, and that we may learn better in different ways, then we can work together in order to make a new educational system using that new knowledge. I think the fear that we’ll be replaced by technology needs to be reexamined because one really important lesson that we've learned from this entire pandemic and social distancing situation is how important social experiences are for people and how important it is to nurture us as social beings.
That which does not bend brakes so we need to be flexible. We need to change the way that we teach; to go with our current reality as opposed to fighting against it and being brittle. Now is the moment for us to reimagine our educational system so let's think about the best way for students of different abilities to learn together. Perhaps leveraging technology and using machine learning we can create personalized learning resources using adaptive technology tools.
How do we teach and support the individual student in a class of 28 students of varying abilities? In a traditional classroom, that has always been a challenge but the environment is not all about learning, what about the social aspect of learning which is challenged in this remote educational scenario and supported in a classroom?
No matter what, this pandemic has forever changed the world of education. The faster the world develops and things change, the less useful it is for us to teach what we learned before because now it's irrelevant and obsolete. What's better is to teach students skills necessary to learn and then learn alongside them.