After many years working with education technology in a variety of roles and with varying responsibilities, I have settled on a couple of truths that don’t seem to change for me. The first, and perhaps the most disconcerting truth, is that in order to be successful in a technology field, you have to accept that you are never really an expert. As much as you may know, as hard as you may work to read and access the literature and keep abreast of trends in technology, things are changing too fast. It is important to me to be comfortable with that truth. It is also a challenge because others often look to their local tech staff as the gurus or experts. “Will we even have computers in five years?” is a frequent and earnest query. “How about ipads?” “What will replace Smart boards?” “What will we be using in our classrooms in 10 years?” “Augmented reality- what’s that and how can I use it to teach?”
All are legitimate questions and all are difficult to answer. Ten years ago, we didn’t even consider use of ipads and smart phones as ‘standard practice” in our classrooms; ubiquitous wireless was not a ‘must-have!’ Now schools are investing heavily in tablets without a clear picture of how long they may last and what the long term costs of maintaining that infrastructure may be. So we have to take a leap of faith and sometimes we have to be comfortable not having the answers to all the questions.
Recently, my excitement about our new, 3-D printer was overshadowed by awe of the innovative 3-D replicators being used to print body parts for surgical procedures and others being used to print live human tissue to aid children with birth defects or to assist in the treatment of cancer by replicating tumors and treating them. Amazing! As a tech leader, I keep thinking- “How do we prepare our children to be innovators and users of technology in such a startling and changing landscape?” Reflecting on this, I arrived at the idea of technology ‘as tie-dye’. We can’t get so absorbed in our quest to acquire the newest, shiniest, miracle gadgets that we lose sight of what is really important- those tried and true ideals of fostering creativity, discovery, making something unique and personal from all the information and diverse materials available. Like a tie-dyed shirt, products should reflect creativity, individuality, and use of common resources to create something truly unique, personal, and innovative. We are truly living in the Wild West where anything goes and much is available to those willing and able to take risks. We must prepare our students to be creative thinkers with the skills and confidence to take risks with technology and provide the supports to try again if those risks fail.
And as tech leaders, we must be continually aware of all we don’t know and seek to learn from all those who would teach us- including our students! So I humbly don my tie-dyed shirt and remind myself that I have much to learn each day and that technology is only the tool that allows us to nurture the creativity, innovation, and best ideas of our selves, our teachers and students!