5:45 a.m. Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012
“Dad, can I have my iPod?” my second son asks.
“No,” I reply.
My son returns to eating his breakfast.
Technology and education have been at the forefront of my thoughts lately. Last week I got to be a part of a school’s discussion on moving to 1:1 instruction with the iPad for high school students. The teachers shared their concerns, their fears, and their excitement.
I remember being at that junction when I was a teacher at Centura. Yes, as an English teacher I worried about the loss of the book. I wondered how my position as the teacher would be affected in the classroom. Years later, I find myself teaching from an office through technology only.
Yesterday, I got to teach my American Literature class from Centura. It was energizing to be in front of the students. To have the room filled with laughter, with questions, with that energy that comes from a group of people working and sharing. Today, I am back at the office getting the lesson plan tweaked so we can use Socrative during the class.
One of the themes we are covering in the American Literature class is education. We have seen how Frederick Douglass educated himself by tricking street kids in writing contests. Frederick Douglass understood that education was one part of his path to freedom from slavery. Ralph Waldo Emerson revealed in The American Scholar that true scholars hold a powerful responsibility to our world, to reveal truth. Emerson also states that if nothing else, a true scholar has the ability to live and by truly living we learn. My favorite poet, Langston Hughes, stated in the poem “Theme for English B” that,
The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it’s that simple? …
…It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
To simply state it; the message has been that true education is a reflection of ourselves and continues our entire lifetime.
But in class we are now reading The Street by Ann Petry. And the message has changed. The book expresses an idea that education is just something we go through to gain a better job that allows us to have more money. I’m not sure this doesn’t reflect what education is today.
And no technology will change that. As no pencil will change it either. Teachers have the power to change the view of education. And yes, tools like the iPad do empower teachers to make a difference, not just for the students, but also for their own love of learning. I’m excited as a teacher for the things I can produce with technology, like my own textbook, or a web app that will help my students learn.
So, why doesn’t my son get his iPod? Because he has been spending too much time with it and is in trouble of not making his A.R. goal this quarter. And it is my job to teach him the balance of using technology. As it is a responsibility of teachers to be that person who sparks real learning in students, as Langston Hughes writes,
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
Truth be told, education makes us free and connects us on deeper levels than any Facebook statues update could. At the heart of learning we become the best of who we are.
Emerson states in the American Scholar “Life is our dictionary.” What are we helping our students write in their life?