Our customers have deepened my perspective on Education. They help me to see the many different shades of change and what transformation is really all about. They have also given me a new understanding of the multi-faceted nature of technology and the role that it plays in changing education.
What is most evident to me lately is that technology can’t be relegated to a “role.” I used to think of technology as being one part of an overall transformation plan. Educational institutions need to have a solid network infrastructure, the right wireless and mobility technologies, a way to streamline communications and improve efficiency, a better way of doing online learning. It certainly does do all that. We have also thought of it as an accelerant: adding online learning courses will speed delivery of quality educational content, and web conferencing will make it faster and easier to deliver professional development to teachers, for example.
But, the dynamic nature of technology makes it a whole lot more than an accelerant, and it has more than just a “role” to play. Technology is the driving force behind the need for change. The onslaught of technology is giving us no choice but to change. It’s not just about disengaged or bored learners, it’s about learners who may stop going to the traditional classroom altogether because it has nothing left to offer them. The power of informal learning, and the technologies that drive it, threaten to make traditional education not only irrelevant, but obsolete.
Everyone knows that students are savvy consumers of technology, iThings, social media, mobile devices, and the like, but they’re also increasingly savvy navigators of content and information that is broadly available on the web. They have the access required to figure out what employers want, and they are going to learn how to give it to them, if they haven’t already.
You might say that students are too naïve to know what they don’t know, that they really don’t understand what it takes to be say, an engineer, without going to university. Or, you could say that there is almost unlimited information available on the web that can enable highly motivated individuals to become engineers: online courses, detailed, web-based technical information on a range of topics in many different engineering fields, and a variety of informal learning avenues. This all coupled with an increasingly competitive global community, will, I believe, drive people to avenues other than the traditional classroom.
Does this make education and educators obsolete? Absolutely not. Traditional education can be the glue that holds this all together, that frames employer requirements, makes faculty members facilitators and guides, and provides direction to students, placing them at the center of their learning, and helping them to define their life ambitions, working with them to design their curriculum, customized to meet their needs, and the needs of their future employers.
So let’s revisit the topic of technology. Yes, technology has a role to play, and it is an accelerant, but it is also the Trojan horse, sneaking not very quietly onto the school and college scene, and this horse is being driven squarely by the Trojans. Our students are telling us where they want and need to go. We can either get in the horse with them, or we can remain scattered outside the walls of Troy, looking in, and wondering what is going to happen next.