Earlier today, I was challenged to reflect on the difference between academic technology and technology education. Where are we today and where should we be in the future. The following was a response based on my reflections surrounding that question.
IMHO, we need to move away from “toolish” classes that focus on skills using a specific tool. In a world where knowledge and truth are changing as fast as we truth is discovered, we need to move away from teaching about “static platforms”. Rather, focus on big picture ideas and the process of discovering truth and constructing knowledge in a changing world. The means that technology education classes are replaced with real-world (whatever that means) experiences.
Situate the students in learning environments that don’t focus on one skill, problem, discipline or software. Teach them the skills they need to evaluate data, develop needs analysis and identify possible sources of help and solutions. Adopt the idea that we are stronger if we all know something slightly different about the same body of knowledge and learn to draw from these shared expertise.
What does this look like in practice? I see teams of students working together on different aspects of problems and using the tools of the day to help arrive at solutions and develop products and ideas that can only be solved through collaboration and shared knowledge. When a student does not know something, they draw from their developing understanding of knowledge management and seek answers and help from classmates and global resources.
The days of teaching Word, PPT, Excel, Access and the web editor of choice are gone. Students need to learn how to “Learn”. This is very important when software changes. Just reflect on the shift from Office 2003 to Office 2007. Many people suddenly found themselves unable to do the basic processes they could so easily to in the prior package. You can argue for and against the changes forced upon the world by Microsoft but the bottom line is, the world is very dynamic and we must all be prepared to adapt in this changing world. For those who have learned how to adapt to changes in the technical world and learn the new software, we found many new ways of working and are leveraging the new functionality that is now available to us, functionality that we never knew we were missing. But just try to take that functionality away from us.
This is perhaps the focus of technology classes in the future. Solve real problems with multiple tools where knowledge is distributed and learning is about learning how to learn when knowledge and truth are changing.