As Schools move into the 21st century we need to begin changing not what we teach but how we teach it. Education has to make a commitment to becoming student centered, encouraging students to develop the habits of independent thought and life long learning that will help them to become productive citizens and free, questioning human beings.
Just as the printing press ushered in the new societies of the renaissance so too has the Internet now ushered in a new renaissance of learning and exploration that is changing everything human beings are learning and doing. To explore that new world, teachers have to be committed to putting digital tools into student’s hands and integrating those tools into the evolving curriculum of the 21st century.
What our students learn will become less important than how our students learn. To facilitate our student’s progress toward the goal of becoming life long learners we need to a make a commitment to the reality of one-to-one computing.
We have to develop a new paradigm of learning that puts the student and the student’s interests at the forefront of our educational effort. Schools must make a commitment to connecting our curriculum to the life interests and goals of our students.
While laptop computers are often viewed as teaching machines in many schools, a student centered viewpoint, sees laptops to be learning machines. We, as teachers, need to make the commitment to the usefulness of all digital computing and communication devices in our student’s lives and pledge ourselves to their imaginative and responsible use in our classrooms. We also have to demand that our schools become networked learning communities connected in and outside of school through the Internet.
The Need for change
Schools have been educating children since World War II throughout a period of great change. We have been using methods developed in the 19th century for a changing industrialized world. That paradigm no longer fits the world in which we live. Our world has changed drastically since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, growing more technological and more diverse with every passing year. We are no longer in an industrial world. We have moved from a world of stuff to a world of information. We are now in the information age where all human beings will need to be facile in information tools. We need to learn to become self-directed life long learners so that we can adapt to a rapidly changing world.
Right now our schools are industrial age organizations. Over the last five years technology use has increased in many schools, making great strides in the direction of becoming information-age organizations. Some schools have developed the characteristics of a school that learns rather than a school that teaches. On the whole however, technology still remains rooted in a centralized structure that supports the broadcast method of education, leaving us with little more than electronic 19th century schools. We still operate in a grade structure with fixed time limits for curriculum to be delivered. We are still confined by the school walls.