Which side are you on?

, via Wikimedia Commons”]“There is good reason to believe that if the phonograph proves to be what its inventor claims that it is, both book-making and reading will fall into disuse. Why should we print a speech when it can be bottled, and why should we learn to read when, if some skilled elocutionist merely repeats one of ‘George Eliot’s’ novels aloud in the presence of a phonograph, we can subsequently listen to it without taking the slightest trouble?” (A quote taken from I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works by Nick Bilton)

I  have been fascinated by the above book talking about our present society and how we are adapting to the massive amount of technology.  It is definitely something that applies to schools and the parallels in are obvious in education.

Although I know that change is not always accepted, especially in our society within the areas of innovation, it is amazing to hear the stories Bilton shares about our past and seeing others struggle with the same thing:

“It was claimed that trains would blight crops with their smoke and terrify livestock with their noise, that people would asphyxiate if carried at speeds of more than twenty miles per hour, and that hundreds would yearly die beneath locomotive wheels or in fires and boiler explosions. Many saw the railway as a threat to the social order, allowing the lower classes to travel too freely, weakening moral standards and dissolving the traditional bonds of community.” That’s right: Some people theorized that if humans traveled at more than twenty miles per hour, they would suffocate. Or worse. Anne Harrington, chair of Harvard’s history of science department, found that scientists also believed that traveling at a certain speed “could actually make our bones fall apart.”

I have been on a train several times and my bones are still in place!

As we see many schools either trying to embrace this technology in the classroom, or else push it all together, I wonder about how we parallel to the rest of society.  At one time, online banking was something that many people did not trust as a reliable way to use this service, but in my own life, I now can’t imagine not having this service.  If you look at the music industry, their reluctance to embrace this technology sooner rather than later has probably led them to losing a substantial amount of money. Itunes has helped with this but the damage that has been done through the continuous battle with record companies and ultimately, the consumer, has led to irreversible damage (watch RIP: A Remix Manifesto for a fascinating documentary on this and copyright laws). The difference is that in education, I am not worried about losing money; I am more worried about losing our kids.

We need to embrace this technology and give our students the opportunity to become not only consumers, but creators of information.  Bilton shares a FANTASTIC story of Malia Obama capturing her father’s inauguration on her own cell phone.

As the president awaited his swearing in, his ten-year-old daughter, Malia Obama, sat behind him taking pictures with her digital camera. There were literally hundreds of thousands of people taking pictures of that event—pictures of Barack Obama would appear on the front page of almost every newspaper and news website around the world—yet his daughter wanted to document the event through her own eyes.

Our children need to have the opportunity to be creators and tell their stories in ways that are meaningful and relevant to them.  At our school, we have made tremendous strides to give the power to our students to share these stories through the forms of blogs and different forms of media.  It is essential that our students continue to have power over their learning and how they create and share their own knowledge.

As I close this post, I leave you with the following quote from Bilton (definitely a must read) and a question:

You can lament the changes that are happening today—tomorrow’s history—convincing yourselves of the negatives and refusing to be a part of a constantly changing culture. Or you can shake off your technochondria and embrace and accept that the positive metamorphosis will continue to happen, as it has so many times before. Young people today are building a new language, not demolishing an old one. And as you will soon see, developments like these new words are helping create significant and meaningful new communities and new relationships that are an essential part of our changing culture and our wireless future.

Which side are you on?

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