Learning, Innovation & Tech

Bombs & Breakthroughs

Some Big Questions for Educators & Parents

CJ Westerberg, March 18, 2011 11:29 AM


Editor's Note:  Another provocative post by Scott McLeod, who challenges us all about
our perceptions about the use of technology for learning.  McLeod doesn't just advocate
the intelligent use of tech in education, he takes it a step further by illustrating the disservice
we would be providing to our students by NOT preparing them adequately for the world in which they will be living and operating.  Below are the pointed questions he posed to
educators recently in Amsterdam, and to the recent Educon conference attendees in Philadelphia.         - C.J. Westerberg

"In all of our efforts to teach students safe, appropriate and
responsible technology use, 
are we forgetting the more important job
of teaching our students empowered use?

Some big questions for educators (and parents and policymakers)

By Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D

1)  7 billion people on the planet; 5 billion cell phones.   2 billion people on the Internet.
photos on Flickr;  50 billion photos on Facebook. 17 million Wikipedia articles. 500 billion mobile phone apps were downloaded last year. 6.1 trillion text messages were sent last year. Apple will sell 20 million iPads this year. 35 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube
every minute (or 176000 full-length Hollywood movies each week).
When are we going to start integrating technology into our schooling lives like we do in our personal lives and in our non-school professional lives?

2)  Is your school organization serious about educational technology? (click on link to see what I mean)

3)  What percentage of your school technology budget goes toward teacher-centric technologies - rather than student-centric - technologies?

4)  Our kids live in a world in which they expect to be able to create, publish, share, collaborate, connect and have a voice.  What can you do to tap into the educational power of your
students as online collaborators creators sharers and contributors?

5)  How can you tap into the power of open access and open educational resources for your
staff and students?

6)  How are you (or should you be) tapping into the power of technology to facilitate differentiated, individualized, personalized, learning experiences for your students?

7)  Schools typically move at incremental linear rates of change.  But everything around us is moving at an exponential revolutionary rate of change. It's like the Industrial Revolution crammed into 15 years instead of 150. Are you facilitating linear or exponential change in
 your school organization?

8)  In all of our efforts to teach students safe appropriate and responsible technology use,  are we forgetting the more important job of teaching our students empowered use?

9)  Everything is moving to the Web. Everything.  When we teach our students how to write,
are we teaching our students how to do so in hyperlinked networked interconnected online
spaces for authentic relevant worldwide audiences? (hat tip to Will Richardson for this one)

10  When e-books or e-textbooks now can contain hyperlinks, embedded video, live chat, with
other readers' collaborative annotation, where you see others' notes and highlights, and/or interactive maps, games, and simulations does it still make sense to call them 'books?'   How might we tap into their advantages and affordances?

11)  Electronic versions of books on Amazon now are outselling both their hardback AND paperback counterparts.  Reference materials are moving to the Web at an exceedingly fast pace. When all of the books in your media center become electronic will you still need a physical space called a 'library?'   Will you still need 'librarians?'

12)  Do we really understand what our kids are doing with social media, or is what we know primarily from the news media?

13)  "Are we intentionally, purposefully, and explicitly modeling these new technology literacies for our students?"

14)  What percentage of my job could be done by robust learning software that not only delivers content in a variety of modalities to students but also assesses them on their mastery of
that content?   What percentage of my job could be done by a lower-paid worker in another country who is accessible via the Internet?   In other words, what percentage of my job
requires me the unique talented human being that stands before you?

15)  Do I truly 'get it?'   Am I doing what really needs to be done to prepare students for a hypercompetitive global information economy and for the demands of digital global
citizenship? In other words am I preparing students for the next half century rather than
the last half century?

16)  And if I'm not . . . If as a teacher,  I'm not incorporating digital technologies into students'
learning processes in ways that are relevant meaningful and powerful on a regular and
frequent basis - should I get to keep my job? Or, should I be replaced by someone who will
get the necessary job done?

17)  And if I'm not . . . If as an administrator, I'm not creating facilitating and maintaining robust technology-infused globally-interconnected learning environments for staff and students should I get to keep my job? Or, should I be replaced by someone who will get the necessary job done?

18)  And if I'm not . . . If as a policymaker, I'm not allocating fiscal and policy resources in directions that move schools and society forward in the appropriate directions, am I willing to be held accountable for sacrificing our children's futures for the fears and political pettiness of the present?


Scott McLeod, J.D., Ph.D., is an Associate Professor in the Educational Administration program at Iowa State University. He also is the Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE), the nation's only academic center dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators, and was a co-creator of the wildly popular video, Did You Know? (Shift Happens).

Dr. McLeod blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at Dangerously Irrelevant at

Post previously published at Dangerously Irrelevant before minor modifications.
Published The Daily Riff February 2011.  Bold emphasis added by Editor.

Related posts on The Daily Riff:

Ask a Student.  How Does Your Teacher Learn?

The Definitive Guide to Developing a Technology Plan in Your School

No Time to Hide!  How Technology is Radically Transforming Teaching, Schools, & The Job Market  by Scott McLeod

21 Things that will be Obsolete in Education by 2020

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