Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Be Marco Polo

Fear of the unknown is a powerful force in education. There are many teachers across America who view social media, mobile phones and other modern technologies the same way 13th century Venetians viewed The Orient. This is why technology educators need to be the Marco Polo of their school. The good news for us is that we don’t need to travel thousands of miles to make new discoveries. The rate of innovation today is astounding and we can not afford to stay in a conceptual Venice surrounded with out-dated pedagogical methods.

We need to be explorers.

We need to seek the new and the unusual. Not that everything new and unusual is useful for educating our children, but we will never know what works unless we try it ourselves.

Do technology teachers need to be early adopters? I think we do and not only that, but it is our professional responsibility to be early adopters. When it comes to hardware innovations, this is not always practical but much of what is new and unusual is on the web and often totally free. To expect teachers to be able to buy iPads on the grounds that they are “explorers” is a tough sell, but it doesn’t cost a dime to try Voicethread or Tumblr or Hashable.

Marco Polo probably encountered things in Asia that he was thoroughly unimpressed with and let these things remain mysteries to the people of Europe, but he also brought back new ideas and new tools that helped galvanize a new era. This is our job as educators—to galvanize the new era. We need to be the change we hope to see in schools and by definition, change requires new ideas, new tools and new approaches. It is our job to do the research, to try the new and unusual, to explore, to be Marco Polo for our schools.

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