"This digital revolution is a learning revolution. As long as we don’t waste it."

I’ve been thinking a lot about technology in education over the past several years prompted, in part, by [Oliver]’s experiences as a public school student, and, in part, by my work on behalf of the PEI Home and School Federation on the technology file. I have become convinced that, despite having smart, imaginative people throughout the system, we are missing tremendous opportunities to leverage education technology, not only in the practical application of hardware and software tools, but as an overarching educational philosophy that sees Prince Edward Island as a member of a global community.

I was fortunate to encounter JP Rangaswami at reboot several years ago, and since then his thinking on privacy, technology and education has been a great influence on me. A recent post of his, Singin’ In The Rain, struck a chord with me, and summed up my own feelings about what he calls the “digital revolution” more succinctly than I could myself:

The ability to observe. The ability to imitate. The ability to try it out for yourself. The ability to get quick feedback. Four critical requirements for learning.

We’re in the midst of a digital revolution. Everything that happens can be observed by more people than has ever been possible before. The internet is a copy machine, the ability to share and to imitate has never been cheaper. Tools continue to be invented to make it possible for all of us to be able to try more things for ourselves than we could ever do before.

This digital revolution is a learning revolution. As long as we don’t waste it. Waste happens when we constrain the ability to observe, to imitate, to try out, to get feedback. Particularly when we have the opportunity to make it all affordable, ubiquitous.

Education drives the solution to so many of our perceived problems. Education is so incredibly accelerated, assisted, augmented by digital infrastructure. If we let it.

We who are here on earth today can make a difference to that earth by ensuring that we don’t waste this incredible opportunity, of using digital infrastructure to enfranchise everyone, to provide the opportunity for all to learn.

Since becoming a digital citizen — and I’ve been one for more of my life than almost anyone — I’ve been as much a skeptic and contrarian about the societal ramifications of digital technology, but when I think about the trajectory of my own life, and what digital technology has allowed me to be, to do, to express, to participate, to engage, I can’t help but agreeing with JP.

I’ve come to believe that the challenges standing in the way of this transformation are not money nor resources, for, with motiviation and creativity, these are easily obtained or obviated: what’s standing in our way is fear and ignorance.

Those with the power to unleash the digital revolution, to take the chains off and allow us to truly explore its potential and its boundaries, are not themselves digital citizens, and so they tend to regard education technology, at worst, as an extension of typing class, and, at best, as a non-essential supplement to the outdated core education metaphors.

I go to meetings of bureaucrats and educators, well-meaning, smart people all, and come away flummoxed by how discussions get consumed with bureaucratic minutiae, with trying to keep the Internet genie in the bottle, and with a benign resignation toward lack of funding and license on a political level.

I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that marginal jurisdictions like Prince Edward Island have the chance to most leverage the positive potential a digital revolution can beget. We have the raw materials — people, technologies, connections to networks. What we lack is determination, leadership, and the imagination and courage to look beyond our own fears of change and power rebalancing to the positive outcome that lies ahead.

Like JP says, If we let it.

Comments

Heather M's picture
Heather M on January 26, 2013 - 19:33

I agree, as my eyes are just being opened as to the limits within the School system. Count me on board for change.

Joshua Biggley's picture
Joshua Biggley on January 27, 2013 - 00:36

When I moved to PEI almost 5 years ago, I did so with the hopes that the Island would offer exactly the sort of microcosm of change that you are describing. Instead, I found the same general malaise that I left in Ontario, albeit without the population base to aid in dilution. It’s not that the Island is different from any other jurisdiction, but that our social fabric is so interconnected that any infection, whether positive or negative, quickly sweeps through the majority of the Island and determines “the way things are” for the majority.

This argument you make for a digital revolution is one that I have been making since shortly after arriving in 2008. I was dismayed that the IT industry (that catch-all description of our industry) was not mentioned in the State of the Province address last week. More than any other movement, the digital revolution offers the greatest opportunity to change every other industry in PEI and enable us to use our low cost of entry as an Island to our advantage. Knowledge is the only resource the Island has to offer that can be consumed without risk of depletion in the future. An economy built on knowledge supports the resiliency of every other industry.

I’d love to sit and chat for a while to discuss where we are, where we need to be and how we could get there. I truly believe that this issue is not a lack of passion or desire, but that we have yet to figure out that we are not alone in longing for the revolution to begin and that we can unite in a common cause for real change in learning in PEI. (Note that I see education as a single node in the complex web of learning, one to be connected to other opportunities that naturally exist.)

Now that fate connected us in the Homburg tunnel, we have only to overcome scheduling challenges to begin.

Count me in.

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