Weekly reflection: educating for their future, not our past

Photo by author's father

A few weeks ago my Dad found a photo album which contained a number of photos that I had never seen. My favourite is this one right here. I can’t decide what I love more about the  photo. The way I’m looking towards my beloved grandmother or the huge line of people waiting to see the Empire Strikes Back in 70mm!

Apparently my Dad wanted to take a picture of the scene as my parents and grandparents couldn’t believe that people were queuing around the block for a movie.  I would love to make a Dear Photograph of this scene but I have no idea if the cinema, which is located somewhere in Toronto, still exists.

Looking at that photo it’s not just the markers of fashion and movies that give rise to the time that the photo taken but the technology itself. Camera companies have recently stopped making film cameras for the movie industry as digital movie-making is now so commonplace.

This picture is quite poignant as my parents welcomed their first grandchild into the world less than two weeks ago. My parents are now grandparents and this baby’s reality will be so very different from my reality as the first-born child of my parents. I can’t even begin to predict what the world will be like when this baby starts school. But I do know one thing. The ipad we were taking pictures and videos of the baby will be considered old fashioned in five years time when he starts school.

So it depresses me to no end that we continue to have debates about the idea of students using technology in school.  The idea that kids might be using technology for their learning is greeted with incredulous  sniggers at the usefulness of the tool by the adults. We didn’t need those tools learn they cry so why do the children of today get these toys?

This is not a generational  jealously problem. It is a learning problem. I grew up in a time when much of today’s means of communication was not even a dream Yet I am almost a teacher. I recognize that what was commonplace in my world, cassettes, film cameras, floppy disks, has nothing to do to the children of today let alone the ones starting school in 5 years time. If I want to  meaningfully engage with my students I need to so with tools for learning that they will use. Yet this year I was using cassettes for a listening post activity. We need to do better than that.

We need to be more visionary about how we teach. I used to read encyclopedias for fun as a child but compared to effectively using the internet the encyclopedia is the record player of research. We need teachers to be able to guide kids in using these technology learning tools.

When the problem of cyberbullying rears its head our knee-jerk reaction seems to be to ban it rather than ask how can we help out students be responsible digital citizens? Solving the answer to that problem is obvious. All of us in education need to be good digital citizens ourselves. We need to model what we teach.This is not generational digital native versus digital immigrant thing. Old and young can give up on learning. But ultimately it is our job as teachers to educate for their future, not our past.

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