I couldn’t find my phone this morning. Not plugged in. Not by my chair. So, I dialed the number and discovered it propped up against the kitchen window. I had used it yesterday for access to a recipe for Thanksgiving. There it was, spitting out the blues riffs that I had chosen for my home number, reminding me of the difficulty of names in this crossover, hybrid, multi-tasking age in which we live.
Earlier yesterday, that 3 X 4 inch piece of technology had been a camera, which I used to record the passing of the seasons as I walked the dog along the road to the winery.
This morning, I was looking for it because I needed it as a book to look up a quote to share with a friend.
Later, I will play sudoku and surf the web and listen to music.
Yet, we reduce it to one name: cell phone. And, we ban it, despite its potential to provide access to all the tools of education from textbooks to videos to pens. Because we can’t control it and schools have a responsibility to keep kids safe and we’ve seen plenty of examples where they’ve gotten in real trouble having unfettered access to the world. But there are also plenty of examples where grown ups haven’t done such a good job either. It’s THE media literacy issue that we need to discuss: consumer/producer/prosumer and the implications.
But even as I write the above, I wonder if we will miss this opportunity as well…the chance to make learning, working, and living all more humane enterprises. Anyone who knows even a little of the history of school reform understands that technology almost never drives real change. Instead, it gets incorporated into the existing structures of the system, maybe making small changes, but ultimately being changed itself.
But, at the risk of flying in the face of history, there seem to be larger forces at work here that are challenging our names for lots of things. Work: Changes in the way people access their jobs may lead them to question a school schedule that no longer matches their own. School: Easy access to educational resources makes it easier to imagine teaching your own children.
Even the word “teacher”…last Saturday I was part of a conference with pre-service teachers and I made an off hand comment about not being a real teacher. One of the 20-somethings looked at me and asked what I meant by that. I explained that while I was a teacher in many ways, since I didn’t teach the grueling schedule of a K-12 classroom teacher, I didn’t really consider myself a “real” teacher. I had it easy with my online courses, afternoon workshops and evening webinars. But, he insisted, I was a real teacher because I was doing the work of teaching. Just because I wasn’t adhering to a particular schedule or killing myself to try and meet impossible demands didn’t make a difference to him.
And, there it is: what will make the real difference in the future. Young people who are questioning everything about the world we have created and the way we have defined words like “work” and “school” and “fun.” His generation is the real force that, when joined with mobile multimedia technologies and other cultural shifts, will change definitions in ways we can’t even imagine.