Friday, December 26, 2014

Three Waves of Technology in Education

As I speak with audiences around the country and work with schools and teachers within the Lutheran system, it strikes me that there are three identifiable waves of technology in education. I am wondering whether this is a helpful model or understanding for others. I don't want to assume that this is a useful approach for everyone just because it is helpful to me. Therefore your thoughts and comments are welcome.

So what are these three waves? In my view, the first wave is the awareness and simple implementation of technology into the learning process. Most schools seem to have moved beyond this wave, although there are a few stragglers. Dr. Perry Bresemann was instrumental helping those of us in the Lutheran educational system to understand the importance of embracing technology within schools -- that the emerging digital tools were more than another educational fad, but their use within both education and society as a whole has a lasting impact.

The second wave is the one with which most schools are currently engaging. This wave is the challenge to design meaningful lessons and activities to fully utilize the potential of classroom for technology for student learning. While the first wave is about getting "stuff", this second wave concerns proper stewardship of the "stuff", seeking to make the greatest impact on learning, sharing, and productivity within the classroom.

While most schools are working with the second wave, a third wave has emerged, and the growth and experimentation with this wave is rapidly advancing. The third wave, in my view, is the redesigning of learning environments to best take advantage on a macro level of the digital tools that are now available. Around our country we see charter schools and for-profit schools emerge, challenging the structure of the traditional educational system. We see a rapid expansion of online learning and digital delivery. There is experimentation taking place inside more traditional schools, such as what we are attempting at Lutheran High School (where I work and teach), with Lights Academy.

In my judgment, those of us in Lutheran education need to be wrestling this third wave NOW! The landscape of education is changing so rapidly that it will be difficult for Lutheran schools to persevere in the critical mission of training children for service in the Lord's Kingdom without thinking deeply about how the third wave affects educational ministries. Schools and churches need to be willing to experiment with new models and approaches while at the same time remaining true to the core mission of Lutheran education.

Sadly, I see few conversations that seek to make sense of this third wave. Dr. Bernard Bull of Concordia University Wisconsin does an excellent job in challenging all of us to study this third wave on his blog. There are a few other strong voices that are taking a similar approach. However, this third wave is not on the radar of most schools and educators. Therefore, you will likely see more writing on this blog related to this third wave in the coming months.

That is, of course, assuming that this model is useful in understanding the role of digital technologies in education. So what do you think? Are there really three waves of technology in education? If not, what do you see happening in the realm of technology in education?

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