Creating a Paradigm Shift

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Part of a comment left by Catherine Hiltz on Embedded Technology

I think that the first step needs to involve creating a better
understanding of educational paradigm shift. Perhaps this needs to be
done by the provincial departments or at the division level. Without
the philosophical background/understanding, I think that perhaps most
educators will continue to flounder with tech. I would like to hear your
thoughts on this…

Well since you asked…

We do need to create a paradigm shift in education at the way in which technology is viewed. We have a history to over come.

When technology first showed up in schools some 20 years ago or so, we didn’t really know what to do with it. Sure we wanted it, we knew that it was something new…something that was going to change education, but we just didn’t know much about it yet. So we put a bunch of computers in a room…called them labs and sat staring at the blinking green square wondering what to do next.

So we decided that we’d invite teachers and their classes in. Completely optional of course, as we really didn’t know what you could do with this machine. Some teachers came in, they grabbed those big floppy disks and put them into the computer and let the students play Oregon Trail….do you remember that game? The original Oregon Trail?

So computers become a reward..it was fun….and most importantly it was options.

And that is part of the problem. Computers were introduced as optional use an though we now all use computers on a daily basis, there use for many teachers and in many schools is still optional. The reasons range from lack of training, to poor connection, to not having the time to learn how to use it. It doesn’t matter what the reason is…the fact is in the majority of schools today…using technology tools is optional teaching.

So, that is the paradigm shift in my eyes that we need to overcome. We need to look at the skills needed in the 21st century and understand that using technology is no longer optional. That using a pencil and paper is now optional and the computer and digital information is needs to be the new standard.

That is the real paradigm shift. It needs to happen at the core of education. We need to change our views on the use of these tools roles in the classroom and in learning. Until we come to a fundamental understanding that technology is no longer option…we will continue to be frustrated and continue to prepare students for jobs that use to exist with skills no longer needed.

Only because you asked….

[tags]21st Century Learning[/tags]

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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Great post. It isn’t optional anymore. Gave a workshop on web 2.0 today to teachers and we had this exact conversation.

    IT’s “life” now and that shift has to happen in classrooms, in curriculum, in support for teachers, in pedagogy, and in professional development.

    Knowledge used to be what separated those who became successful and those who weren’t. If you knew more, you went further.

    Now, knowledge is accessible to everyone anytime. So, communicating, evaluating, collaborating, finding, solving, and sharing well will be what separates our kids in the future. How can we not shift?

    It can’t be optional.

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  3. Shift is good, but Oregon Trail, that was a movement. We went to the “Lab” for the first in third grade. A cold basement with a bunch of IIE’s. Green on black screens with short bursts of loud SFX. Do you remember having 4 or 5 disks for a good adventure game? We played a great math game where if you did not get the problem quick enough, your spy died…well, disappeared. Someone find that one.

    Wow, I had a tough day. Thanks for the memory.

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  5. Great points Jeff. I think it will take more than what you suggest. I teach a course for pre-service elementary education majors. Many of them do not see computers as educational tools. This is mainly due to the modeling they received in their k-12 education. So unfortunately, we are creating a whole new crop of non-technology using teachers. Many pre-service teachers go through their four years of college without a technology course and get the same poor modeling from the professors in their other courses. In an ideal world, my course would not be necessary and the students would get everything they need to integrate technology through their methods and other educational courses.

    I think the bigger problem is that teachers see technology as one more thing they need to do. The change that really needs to take place is for teachers to see that it is just part of the lesson planning process and a matter of choosing the best tools for the job. I can knock a nail into the wall with the handle of a screw driver, but I’ll do a lot better job with a hammer. Sometimes technology is not the best tool for an educational job. We don’t need to force it into the classroom. We need to ensure that teachers choose the right tool for the job at hand.

    Kimberly Cofino wrote a nice post the other day about combing technology integration with Understanding by Design (backwards planning). I think she really spoke to this idea extremely well in her post.

  6. Good post! I also do feel that teachers and administrators, current and pre-service, still think of computers as optional in many cases. I am currently a student studying to become a special education and elementary education teacher and am actually reading this post because of my Computers in Education course. This course is made mandatory for anyone going into any kind of education and is designed to not only teach us the basics, but also about many of the different tools available to help us in the classroom to integrate technology. I know some people who attend other universities studying education and they are not required to take any course that has to do with using technology in the classroom, which is unfortunate not only for them, but for their future students. I think my generation grew up thinking that we know a lot about computers and what we can do with them, but there is really no way to be introduced to the available resources for technology in education unless you take a course or have inservices informing and explaining them. So if current and future teachers are not taught about the always changing technologies how are they planning to integrate technology in the most effective way. Although we do need to be careful to find technology/software to fit the lesson and curriculum, not the opposite. Do you feel that it is the school districts job to keep current teacher up-to-date on the new resources available and how to use them in the classroom, or the teachers job to find it themselves?

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  8. In my district, teachers often find new resources on their own. The technology department offers ongoing professional development opportunities for our teachers. We do not expect them to do it all. We are available for the teachers on an as needed basis for assistance with lesson planning and implementation as well.

  9. Sometimes I think change is so hard to achieve in schools because most people who went into teaching were good students themselves, myself included. We were willing to learn from a good lecture, and in fact, maybe even enjoyed it. We knew how to be compliant and to do what we should. So in turn, we hope and expect that our students will feel that way as well.

    As I parent of a teenager/now college student, I can see now through the eyes of someone who is more disaffected with traditional education methods, who doesn’t understand the idea of sitting there just because it should be interesting, etc. And many of his friends feel similarly about school. They will comply but just to be polite, not because they are learning particularly well that way. They have a desire to be much more engaged.

    In any case, I think one of the reasons it is difficult to get teachers to see that technology isn’t “optional” is because they are teaching in the way they learned.

    It does take a total paradigm shift to have empathy and understanding for a different model of learning, not just a different model of teaching.

    It takes putting yourself in students’ shoes.

    It is MUCH harder to teach lessons that are inquiry based, that have research involved, to play guide on the side, to ask probing questions….it takes much more preparation and planning. Teachers will need support as they go through this process.

    I was interested to hear about the college student’s experience above, as well. Maybe those of us who are versed in web 2.0 should call our local colleges of education and offer ourselves as guest speakers for classes. Even if students aren’t taking courses in technology, we could share our experiences and open a few doors that way.

    As someone I heard pointed out (think it was David Warlick), we guide our students across the street, we don’t just throw them on the curb and say “try it.” Yet too often we do that with technology, because students are often mainly using it in their personal lives with no guidance. I think we have a tremendous role to play as educators.

    Of course the fundamental question in all this is how to approach this paradigm shift on our campuses, in our colleges, and nationally.

    But perhaps the grass roots way of approaching this will end up achieving the sea-change. I sometimes think that top down approaches to changing education have been distrustfully regarded by teachers, and generally not very effective. When teachers on a campus buy into a change and decide to make it, it happens effectively.

    I think another place to start is in all the teacher journals–not just the technology ones. Those of us who are seeing the need for the shift should be writing articles for Mathematics Teacher magazine, and English Journal, and all the professional sources that teachers, librarians, etc. go to. I know that is already happening in School Library Journal, as I’m a librarian, but I’m thinking that we all need to take a role in putting the word out there.

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