Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Real Game Changer in Education

Recently, I read a great post about social media as a potential “game changer” in education. It got me thinking about the concept of a so called game changer. Personally, I have a tough time buying into the idea of a game changer in anything, let alone education. When it comes to education many people think various pieces of technology are game changers with social media being one of them. I will be the first to say that technology has made me a better teacher. It has given me a better way to differentiate my instruction and has allowed my students access to resources and perspectives never before possible. Social media in particular is one of the single most positive things I have done in terms of a professional development. I have educational resources at my fingertips and the amount of expertise available is staggering. In many people’s minds that right there would be a pretty clear testimony to social media being a game changer. Yet, I don’t think so.

At the end of the day all of these advancements in technology are simply tools. Yes, they are powerful tools, yet it comes down to a teacher using them. I work in a building where we have a great deal of technology in every corner of the building. However, there are still many teachers that refuse to utilize its power to enhance student learning. Technology has power but it is still comes down to who is using it and how they are using it. All the web 2.0 tools in the world will do nothing in the hands of an incompetent or disinterested educator. Is it the tool that is a game changer, or is it the user that uses the tool to better learning for their students? I feel as though every teacher should be using the most recent and relevant technology to do their job, but just having it in your classroom does not guarantee it is a game changer for student learning.

To use an analogy, my younger brother owns his own home renovation company and does some amazing construction work. He talks about some of the tools that he has that make his job easier and could very well be called game changers in the construction business. However, if you were to put those tools in my hands, they would just be expensive liabilities. Again, it comes back to the user, not the tool itself.

As I have said very publicly, I am a huge fan of technology and the power it has to transform learning for our students. Yet, I still think it comes down to the user and not the tool. I would rather define game changers as individuals who choose to use the best tools available to better learning for students. Tools will come and go, but game changing educators are what we need in schools as a constant. As an educator do you define the effectiveness of the tools in your classroom or do the tools define your effectiveness as a teacher?

If you look/read around long enough you will see what game changers really are. They are principals that push their buildings forward and fight archaic traditions in education. They are teachers not afraid to stand up for what is best for their students. They are parents and students not settling for mediocrity in their education. Tools are great and can make our lives easier and learning more effective. However, at the end of the day, it is educators wielding these tools for greater learning that truly changes the game.