Saturday, March 24, 2012

The meteor is to dinosaurs as technology is to ......

When I was in primary school we were prepared for our 11+ exams (these were the test that decided which secondary school we would end up at).  There were a lot of questions like this:
Kitten is to cat as puppy is to ...... followed by a list of options.

At Learning 2030 last week the sentence was already filled in by Peter Mott, Director of ZIS, as he asked will technology be to schools as the meteor was to the dinosaurs?  Or put another way, will schools as we know them still exist or will they become extinct and be replaced by something else?

In Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin writes about the changes in the newspaper publishing industry.  I can't remember the last time I actually bought a newspaper - though I've picked up a few free ones at our local station.  However I read a lot of news - I probably visit the BBC website several times each day, for example.  The changeover for me, from reading news on paper to reading it on a screen happened very rapidly.  Seth Godin writes that a similar change is about to happen with higher education - the last part of his manifesto is about this and I haven't yet read that far so I'm not going to write about this just yet - but of course I think a lot about changes in university education since I have one child at university now and another going next year and no doubt I'll blog about this too at some stage.

What I'd really like to consider here is the idea of how technology has changed the school yearbook.  Coming from the UK I didn't graduate from high school (that was reserved for universities - at school we just did our exams and disappeared afterwards) and I'd never seen a yearbook until I started at my first international school and I was given the job of supervising it.  I'd taken a year out of teaching at this point and had been working for a biomedical publishing company, so I guess the school thought I'd have some expertise in the area of publishing.  Actually I really enjoyed it.  I took a photography course with the art teacher and together with a group of students we made the yearbook.  I have to say it probably wasn't the most professional yearbook as all the photos were taken and actually developed by the students themselves in the school darkroom.  We typed everything up, stuck photos onto sheets of paper and had students decorate the book themselves and took it down to the local publishing company who printed it for us.  I thought it looked pretty good though and for me the best thing about it was that the students actually created it all by themselves.

A few year later things changed.  I wasn't doing yearbook anymore and it was decided to "outsource" it to  Jostens.  A professional photographer came and took passport sized photos of all the students and many, many pages of the yearbook were taken up with these.  Each child was on a separate photo - before we'd just taken class groups in various interesting and relaxed poses around the school.  It definitely looked more "professional" and the kind of thing you might want to give out to local corporations to show off the school, but somehow the heart and soul seemed to have gone out of it.  We had certain templates and we stuck to those and we didn't take many of the photos (and certainly didn't develop them ourselves as by this time the yearbook had changed from B&W into color).

Technology has changed all this once again.  Now even young students can use sophisticated desktop publishing programmes and can produce wonderful, professional looking yearbooks by themselves.  Last year one of our Pre-K teachers used Blog2Print to turn her class blog into a class yearbook that parents ordered online and had delivered to their homes.  This year maybe she might consider turning it into an app or an eBook, instead of a physical book.  With our internationally mobile families, the idea of a heavy hardback book is probably outdated, especially when you consider the costs of shipping the books from the USA to Switzerland in order to distribute them to families who then have to pack them and ship them off to somewhere else.

To me it's inconceivable that schools can continue the way they are now for much longer.  Technology is certainly very disruptive to the status quo.  As Professor Stephen Heppell would say, technology might lead to the death of education, however I believe, like him, that it will empower the rebirth of learning.

Photo Credit:  Dino-mite by Richard Smallbone 2007 AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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