I know that people who are fascinated with technology like to toss the word “revolution” around quite a bit. On the other hand, those who are more skeptical about technology often refer to the latest technology as a “fad.” I was both so dazzled and unnerved by a recent article about technology and education in Fast Company that I want you to decide: are we glimpsing the next revolution in education, or are we seeing the next commercial venture that delivers nothing but profits to marketers?
The article, entitled A is for App: How Smartphones, Handheld Computers Sparked an Educational Revolution, claims that studies show that technology can actually make kids smarter. It then goes on to describe several new learning devices which are already having impact on how children learn in different cultures and among different socio-economic communities. The author claims the bottom line is these technologies work anytime, anywhere.
Think about the revolution in entertainment. Entertainment has gone from a “command and control” model, with elites directing the content, format, venue and timing, to an “iTunes model,” in which users not only control their entertainment, but can also create it! In a similar vein, this article suggests that young learners will soon have the opportunity to be in the driver’s seat of their own education. The role of the teacher will change from instructor to coach, and teachers will finally have the ability to help students customize their learning so that they can proceed at their own pace. Students will be able to follow their own imaginations instead of a hierarchically imposed set of rules that someone else has defined as “learning.”
I really encourage you to read the article (it’s multiple pages, but well worth it,) and tell me your reaction. Do you see this as an inevitable march toward a new way of learning? Do you view this potential leap as positive or negative? What implications does it have for religious education? What will be the role of the teacher, the rabbi or the youth minister in this scenario?
I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon!
Rabbi Hayim Herring