The internet has led to a dramatic increase in the amount of information available to anyone. 600,000 iPhone apps exist and eight years of YouTube videos are uploaded every day. 95 percent of 12 to 17 year olds, according to latest Pew Survey, are online. Today, an internet connection is what a library card was yesterday. The web is impacting everything, everywhere. Technology is already changing education, by making classes available anywhere, anytime. MOOCS (Massive Open Online Classes) are popping up from universities everywhere, and a new badge system, led by Mozilla, is changing the notion of certification.
These observations, from “Why School,” written by Will Richardson are all statements about the reality we find ourselves in as educators of the 21st century. Classes and information are available anywhere, at any time. The title of Richardson’s essay is a critical question, why school? There is a gap between “education” and “schooling,” making the question posed by Richardson critical as the internet continues to expand.
My answer is found in the word “literacy,” which has new meaning in a digital world. Google searches will lead to answers to nearly any question. However, the ability to know what information is good, and what needs deeper verification is a critical skill that needs to be directly taught. Just because you have an internet connection does not mean you know how to use it effectively.
What must we do? We have to rethink assessment. If you can find all of the answers questions on an assignment by doing a simple internet search, you need to rethink what you are requiring students to do. The time has come to harness the power of the internet to pose problems to students to solve. Create projects. Give opportunities to publish work. Redefine what it means to be a “teacher.”
It’s true, the day will come where an internet connection will allow children to complete their “schooling” without stepping foot in a building. As educators, we must realize that our landscape has changed, and we must redefine ourselves, making us indispensable to the “education” of a child.
P.S. On Monday night, December 10, 2012 at 8:30 pm EST, some friends and I will be talking about Will Richardson’s work on Twitter at #edfocus. I hope you can join us.