25 Jan To Boldly Go…Thoughts About Education and Technology Moving Forward
It has been on my mind to write this piece for a while now. My journey into app development and the entrepreneurial process has been exciting and challenging. The process has pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I provide the following as food for thought. This post is a 50,000 ft vision for where we could go with the environments that we provide for our students. There is currently a great deal of change in the world. As a result, we need to think about innovative methods to help empower our students. If we can be successful, it will help them find their passion and purpose. Here are my personal thoughts about how technology can be integrated into the learning experience.
In Tony Wagner’s book Creating Innovators – The Making of Young People Who Will Change The World, Mr. Wagner outlines three essential aspects for helping to create an environment that provides a place for students to find intrinsic motivation. These areas are play, passion, and purpose. I will address all three in a way that helps to describe what I have in mind.
Unstructured play time is ideal to help a person develop a passion. Students should be encouraged to find time to discover new avenues and to find out what makes them tick. To that end, “creativity labs” could be developed. These environments should contain computers that would host software that could be used to create web applications and mobile apps. After a class that provides the basic structure for programming, students could collaborate and ask themselves; “Here is a problem, let’s find the solution.”
There is now a driving force in helping students discover what they would like to innovate, engineer, develop, and build once this initial brainstorming process is complete.
An essential part of working with technology is providing the time for a software developer to tinker with technology. My personal experience tends to go as follows:
First I ask, “I wonder how that works and can I create that for myself?” Then by investigating the answer to that question and climbing the metaphorical hill, I develop more confidence. I then start saying to myself – “Now that I can do that, I can now do this other thing.” The moment you finish climbing one metaphorical mountain, you develop a better appreciation for the landscape and can see even more potential for your passion.
If our students have a place to go to discover what technologies they want to work with and had the freedom to do so, the innovation and discovery journey can begin.
Using Open Source Software
It is also my point of view that it is necessary that the software the students use should be open source. First, because it is free and can help with budgetary constraints when creating these types of environments. Secondly, students get first-hand experience using industry software. As a result, skills and knowledge become transferrable despite the inevitable change in the technological landscape.
The model of education has changed over the last ten years. With the advent of websites such as Udemy.com, course content can be provided at a low cost and focused on where student interests lie, as opposed to classes driven by a preassigned curriculum. I am not advocating that the job of a teacher should go away, I’m suggesting a re-framing of the role of a teacher to be more like a coach. Udemy.com is one example of how technology is disrupting content delivery and the educational market. However, at the time of writing when I called them asking about their educational rates, they didn’t have an plan for that at this time.
Once students have had the chance to tinker with technology, they will have a better idea of what framework they want to use. From this point, they can identify what product or service they want to build. This process is intrinsically motivated, rather than something a teacher has assigned to them. The design process for this type of project contains all of the following elements. This process is known as smart product design.
Smart Product Design
This process allows students to think through and experience all aspects of bringing a product to market. More importantly, learners develop the ability to sell their ideas, concepts or creations. For more information, I have provided an embedded YouTube video below.
Connecting With Local Community
Engaging local communities is essential. This engagement could take the form of networking at local entrepreneurial events or connecting with local developer groups. For example, in Tulsa, we have an organization called Code For Tulsa which is a division of Code For America. I see potential in involving students in the types of projects that help the greater social good as this aligns with many educational mission statements and cultures. This type of educational journey will provide our students with experience in social and innovative entrepreneurship.
The content linked below provides more food for thought:
The links provided above, lead us nicely to purpose.
As a result of the process of play and purpose a student develops a passion. I hope that after experiencing the development of a product (or this may have been established earlier in the process) that they have the experience necessary to solve more significant problems.
The reality of technology is that it is changing at a rapid pace. What works today may not be the best solution six months, two years, or five years from now. I see this in the use of social media when companies like Facebook fundamentally change the way a platform such as Instagram works by adding a new feature. Strategies that used to work no longer do, or at the very least they need a new iteration.
Valuing Your Own Opinion and Connecting the Silos
The other benefit of providing experiences that empower students to develop and publish is that they learn confidence and that they should value their own opinion more than that of someone else. The more people that could potentially consume student work the better. By creating a wider audience the stakes become higher as opposed to writing a lab report that only the teacher will read and grade.
Documenting The Journey
I see examples of this kind of innovation at different schools at this present time. These include blogs, and writing classes where students publish their work in local newspaper editorials, and classes that allow students to create podcasts. I would like to see what I have outlined here integrate into those classes and move away from the silo-based model. For example, those students who are building an app should document their journey as they make new developments and breakthroughs. It’s a far more authentic position to say to the world, “I haven’t made it yet but here is my journey toward building the next advancement in technology.”
Imagine if we had a documentary that had footage of Jeff Bezos starting Amazon from day one and concluding with what we have today. I think people would tune into that. Other avenues could include connecting art classes with computer coding courses so that graphics can be created for games or creative writing for adventure games.
There are many details to work out, but I would prefer to start with “Wouldn’t it be great if we could…” rather than “We can’t do this because…”.
I have provided a short treatment of a direction we as educators can go with technology and innovation. The world is continuously changing, and it is essential that we adjust and provide our students with the tools to face any challenge. The technologies of artificial intelligence, augmented reality (wouldn’t it be cool to have an augmented reality artist for an art show?), machine learning, blockchain and voice-controlled apps (such as Amazon’s Alexa) are the emerging and disruptive technologies that will rule the marketplace in the next five to ten years.
If we can expose our learners to current technologies and teach them about the fluidity of the technological landscape, we will have continued to achieve our goal of developing lifelong learners.
I’d love to hear your feedback on my thoughts. If you have found some value here it would mean a great deal if you shared it with those that you think might benefit.