I recently presented at Alan November’s BLC 09 Conference in Boston. What an awesome conference and an opportunity to meet and network not just across the states but internationally! The question posed in my presentation involved the idea of whether education is closer to the Jukebox or the iPod. I bring this up because as educators we must remember to transform practices that have been valuable instead of always coming up with something new. How can you as an educator transform ideas, practices, and lessons with the technology you may already have?
The jukebox was one of the first devices that allowed for the instant play of music, on demand, from various artists, from a large collection of databases. The jukebox was invented in 1889. It was referred to as the Nickel-in-the-Slot Machine and was invented by Louis Glass and William S. Arnold who placed a coin-operated Edison cylinder phonograph in the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. It was an Edison Class M Electric Phonograph in an oak cabinet that was refitted with a coin mechanism patented (U.S. 428,750) by Glass and Arnold. There was no amplification (wow, similar to the iPod) and patrons had to listen to the music using one of four listening tubes. In its first six months of service, the Nickel-in-the-Slot earned over $1000. Over one hundred years later Apple Computer transformed this same idea with the technology of the 21st century. Launched on October 23, 2001 the original iPod had a 5 GB hard drive that put “1,000 songs in your pocket.” As of September 2008, more than 173,000,000 iPods had been sold worldwide. The 2008 120 GB allowed for instant retrieval of over 24,000 songs. Apple did not invent the idea, they transformed an excellent and proven idea that already existed!
As educators we must enlist our collective database of lessons and practices as we adapt technology that is already in our schools. This concept allows us to make transformation happen on the cheap! I would like to share an example. Many of us have been part of a NASA lesson that had us work in a group to decide what we would need to survive on the moon. We were given a list and as a group we worked collaboratively to prioritize it. It is now possible to transform the lesson using technology that is available today. The lesson could be put in a Moodle. Students could collaborate online through chats and Google Docs. I recently found a tool available for free from Intel called Thinking Tools. Feel free to check out my 21centuryedtech wiki for more information. It allows students to work in collaborative groups and rank items. They can then compare their rankings with others and the class average through teacher made accounts. In this process they also share information and reasoning with the teacher. The results could be shared through a Power Point presentation and a visual ranking of the data could be displayed using Excel. How about a video conference or online chat to compare with experts in the community? Most schools have the technology, connection, and software to make this Old Lesson transform to a 21st Century experience. Remember that Open Office can even serve as a no cost alternative to Microsoft Office.
It is time for educators to explore new possibilities by transforming what has always worked. Do not wait for a new purchase in order to engage students in 21st Century Learning. You already have what it takes to transform the educational jukebox into an iPod. The result will be educational experiences that are more productive, efficient, connected, authentic, and engaging to the digital generation. It will facilitate important 21st century skills that are essential to our students’ future.