(from the 2012 Boise 360 Blog archive)
Teaching took a hit this week in Idaho. Despite overwhelming disapproval by teachers and parents, the so-called Luna Plan for education passed the Idaho Senate Education Committee and will most certainly get through the full Senate and the House when it will be signed by Governor Otter. Some of you may have seen me speak on the steps of the Capitol several weeks ago against this plan where I suggested that requiring online classes and giving out laptops was folly. In addition to freezing, I was rather nervous since I’d never had that opportunity before. But while I was up on the steps listening to all the great speeches that day, I got to thinking about all the amazing, important, and at times temporal causes for which speakers had taken those steps over the years. It was empowering to be at the people’s house.
So what does this teacher who is known for his connectivity think about the plan that is so deeply based in technology? Well, I’d be crazy if I believed that mandating my students to take an online class over having me teach them in person would be better for their education. But it shouldn’t really be one or the other should it? This shouldn’t be a decision about teachers OR technology. Superintendent Luna and his supporters have it wrong; but so do the Luddites on the other side. The Boise Architecture Project is a fantastic example of what can be done if teachers have the ability to work with their students using the latest technology to bring history to their lives. So many teachers are using websites, facebook and social media, YouTube, and podcasts to extend the learning of their students. Isn’t this what technology does in our everyday lives? Technology makes us and our students more productive and can open worlds. That’s the story of Web 2.0.
But this can’t happen without a vision. This is what I bring to my students every day and is what they simply can’t navigate on their own. It’s my job. I get paid for my vision of U. S. History and, more recently, this has branched out into my vision of using technology to connect my students to their community through our research on architectural preservation in Boise. The BAP has repeatedly been recognized for this and it is what we continue to push for, both with local organizations and increasingly with national classrooms.
Online classes don’t have that vision, at least not yet. But innovative, creative, and progressive classroom teachers do have it….one just has to say yes to new ideas. So what if instead of mandating that our students spend more time online consuming, we incentivize them through exciting learning opportunities to produce online. Be an historian as in BAP students’ research. Or produce a video as we did with Julia Davis Park. Develop connections with the community as we do with our facebook posts. My students will say to a person that the BAP has significantly changed the way they look at Boise. Luna has it backwards. Our students won’t become more tech-savvy by being required to go online for static consumption. They will develop the next generation of technology by connecting and contributing to dynamic communities of learning around them. Technology is not the end, it is the means. Learned and educated people are the goal. Sorry Watson, I’d much rather have a conversation with Ken Jennings about Boise architectural history any day.