How do we educate students about technology when technology is ever changing and always advancing?
In 1965, Intel Co-Founder Gordon Moore stated, “the number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months.” His statement set the pace for the growth of semi-conductor technology (computers getting faster and faster and smaller and smaller) for the next half century, and the exponential growth of new technologies shows no sign of dropping off. So what does it mean to educate students in a world where their future careers probably do not even exist yet? In the article Achieving Techno-Literacy, which appeared in the New York Times Magazine’s September Education issue, author Kevin Kelly offers some up some of the ‘technological smartness’ that he has been passing on to his children:
9 Pearls of Techno-Wisdom
- Every new technology will bite back. The more powerful its gifts, the more powerfully it can be abused. Look for its costs.
- Technologies improve so fast you should postpone getting anything you need until the last second. Get comfortable with the fact that anything you buy is already obsolete.
- Before you can master a device, program or invention, it will be superseded; you will always be a beginner. Get good at it.
- Be suspicious of any technology that requires walls. If you can fix it, modify it or hack it yourself, that is a good sign.
- The proper response to a stupid technology is to make a better one, just as the proper response to a stupid idea is not to outlaw it but to replace it with a better idea.
- Every technology is biased by its embedded defaults: what does it assume?
- Nobody has any idea of what a new invention will really be good for. The crucial question is, what happens when everyone has one?
- The older the technology, the more likely it will continue to be useful.
- Find the minimum amount of technology that will maximize your options.
Educating students about technology is much like educating students about any other pursuit. A physics teacher cannot expect her students to know the answer to test questions that she hasn’t written yet, but she can provide them with the tools to answer new problems when they encounter them. And it would be silly for an English teacher to expect students to develop a thesis for a critique on a novel before opening the first page! In the same way that we already provide our students with the tools to approach unforeseen content, we must also teach our students the tools – by building on these 9 ‘Pearls’ – to approach unforeseen technologies.
Furthermore, we know that to be effective teachers we must embody our area of expertise. Whether its physics or yoga or poetry, we must be fluent in all the nuances of the skills and knowledge we are imparting. This same fluency is imperative in our instruction of technological know-how. Before we can begin to impart this wisdom, we must embrace technology ourselves. Would you go to a yoga class where the instructor couldn’t do the poses? Probably not. Would you learn how to approach technology from a teacher who is frustrated at every turn? Not if you could help it.
As educators, we work to provide our students with the tools they will need to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be. To help our students in these pursuits, we must, as Kelly says, “listen to technology, and learn to be proficient in its ways; then we’ll be able to harness this most powerful force in the world. If not, we’ll be stuck at the bottom of the class”.
Off to visit a tech-savvy professor…
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(Image public domain by Alonso Sánchez Coello)