We need to take bigger mental leaps as educators and policymakers

Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, had a blog post back in August titled Instructional Technology: Villain of the Piece - or Savior? In that post, he postulated five ways that technology could be used to improve student achievement:


  • Use word processors to teach writing.
  • Giving students access to the wealth of information on the Internet.
  • Giving students access to powerful modeling and simulation tools.
  • Giving students access to some of the most talented teachers in the world.
  • Using the technologies of natural language processing and artificial intelligence, in combination with other technologies, to provide automated, accurate, and timely assessments of student progress.
  • I didn't have a huge beef with anything that he listed. All of those likely have a place in our new systems of learning, teaching, and schooling. But they still reflect a fairly limited vision of what student learning with technology could be. Here's what I said in my comment:

    Marc, with due respect for all of your excellent work, I believe that you are missing the true impacts of digital technologies and the Internet. Every single one of the examples you list above portrays adults as the directors of the learning process and students merely as consumers.

    The real transformation occurs when we give students access to robust learning technologies and then get out of their way as much as possible, giving them the power and permission to DIRECT THEIR OWN LEARNING. For the first time ever, our children have the ability to be powerful creators, collaborators, and contributors to our global information commons. They have the ability - at surprisingly young ages - to work with each other and with adults to follow their interests and passions and do relevant, authentic, meaningful knowledge work. In your list above, did you acknowledge the ability of digital technologies and the Internet to facilitate personal ownership, investment, and self-learning affordances in our youth? Nope, not at all. See http://bit.ly/NwBQrV for more about this concept.

    Do children need help and guidance from adults along the way? Absolutely. But go visit a Big Picture school, or a New Tech school, or a High Tech High, or an Expeditionary Learning school, or an Edvisions school, or an Envision school. Learn from the work of Henry Jenkins, danah boyd, Mimi Ito, and others. Then think about what you left out from your list above...

    I think we need to take bigger mental leaps as educators and policymakers. Digital technologies reinvent daily what our students could be doing, but our mindsets are holding us back. Marc never responded to my comment but if he ever has time I'd love to hear his thoughts (or yours)...

    3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

    What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

    Northwell Health
    Sponsored by Northwell Health
    • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
    • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
    • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
    Keep reading Show less

    Should you defend the free speech rights of neo-Nazis?

    Former president of the ACLU Nadine Strossen discusses whether our society should always defend free speech rights, even for groups who would oppose such rights.

    Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
    • Former ACLU president Nadine Strossen understands that protecting free speech rights isn't always a straightforward proposition.
    • In this video, Strossen describes the reasoning behind why the ACLU defended the free speech rights of neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois, 1977.
    • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
    Keep reading Show less

    Has a black hole made of sound confirmed Hawking radiation?

    One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

    Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
    Surprising Science
    • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
    • Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
    • A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
    Keep reading Show less
    Big Think Edge
    • In some fundamental ways, humans haven't changed all that much since the days when we were sitting around communal fires, telling tales.
    • Although we don't always recognize them as such, stories, symbols, and rituals still have tremendous, primal power to move us and shape our lives.
    • This is no less true in the workplace than it is in our personal lives.