All Along the Watchtower

I certainly hope that “education as we know it” will have changed in the next decade.  Although it has certainly struggled to do so over the past 100 years.  There is no doubt that technology has played and will continue to play a part in the development of education.  It would be difficult for it not to in some way.

The Talk

Screenshot by Me
Screenshot by Me

There are increasing conversations around what needs to change in our systems and it seems that technology is always a part of the conversation.  I stumbled on a prime example via Twitter just a few weeks ago as a group was using the hashtag #cuerockstar to discuss learning at a conference being hosted at Skywalker Ranch.  I’m pretty sure this guy knows a thing or two about the benefits of technology in the classroom.

Our world is increasingly reliant on technology and computers making it essential that not only technology be used in the classroom, but students are taught how to use various forms of technology and even how to make computers work.  Late night codingIf we think about how deeply technology is embedded into our society  (raise your hand if you get paid electronically) there is no reason to even argue about the concept of technology in the classroom.

Now if we are talking about how that technology is used, it is a different story.  Hopefully we are all aware that tech for the sake of having tech is ridiculous.  But as we start using technology to create connections around the world and share our teaching and learning experiences with others, it becomes a powerful tool.

The Future

I don’t think that the classroom of the future will exist without teachers as some seem to envision, but I do hope that it will be a much more collaborative space.  I hope that it will encourage a global mindset and challenge students to create and solve problems.

As I work to move from a classroom teacher to a tech coach, I’m certainly thinking not only about how to push teachers to see these concepts, but how I will use them in my own offerings of professional development.  These changes can’t come from a top down approach, they need to come from within the walls of our schools and the halls of our universities.

The Dream

496px-Full_Sunburst_over_EarthIf we are talking about the perfect classroom for creating real change in the world and developing true understanding of cultures and global issues,  I think this school has a pretty good idea.  How beautiful would it be for every kid to have a chance like that?



Image Source

Late Night Coding photo by jjackowski   Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license on Flikr

Full Sunburst over Earth” by NASA. Original uploader was Mrshaba at en.wikipedia – File:Robot Arm Over Earth with Sunburst – GPN-2000-001097.jpg. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –




  1. Deidra West says:

    Hi Ryan,

    I definitely believe (tech)education has changed over the past 100 years, not so much a struggle for it either. I feel we were just using chalkboards and overhead projectors and the field trips we took were to zoos. Now you can walk into classrooms with 1:1 iPads, SMARTboards, and researching animals via Skype with an actual zookeeper. But when it comes to school reform, I def agree, not much progress has been made. If anything, it seems to have regressed more than anything else.

    Not to long ago I was guilty of using tech ‘for tech sake’ and not fully utilizing its resources until participating in COETAIL (still not an expert at utilizing it, but definitely progressing). I would struggle with how to authentically use tech in a first grade class setting, until I searched #edtech. I stumbled across some great lower elementary educators and ideas. One of my favorite so far we’ve done is a global collaboration project called ‘If You Learned Here’. Students connect with students all over the world comparing/contrasting/discussing/explaining etc. aspects of their school day and life in their country.

    Yes we rely heavily on tech, but I agree, teachers (who create collaborate spaces and with global mindsets) will always play a significant role in the classroom that can not be replaced by computers. Especially not by next year.


  2. Cate Jarvis says:

    Hi Ryan
    Well, as is often the case for me, I am drawn in with a musical reference (to be honest I think this is the case both in the real and virtual world for me!) I am intrigued – who is on the watch the towers? To be fair I was also intrigued by the school link it looks amazing, what a way to learn and from such rich and diverse cultures. Sign me up now please!

    I think the topic of educational change is always interesting. I have heard from the start of my career in 2001 that the way we teach will change due to technology, and have seen minimal change – in fact seen really none. We use more technology (as we have more access) but it has rarely impacted upon how and what we teach. What would you like to see?

    For me I think it may change when we stop working to exams and the exams themselves start looking for creative risk takers. When universities (colleges) look for the “something different” and not the highest grades and finally when technology no longer needs to be overtly discussed as it is already embedded within teaching.

    As a Technology Coach I whole heartedly agree that the professional development that we supply must engage with the teachers in the same way we hope that they engage with the pupils. To be fair I try to lead these sessions like a lesson with the use of technological tools, different activities, some differentiation and lots of rewards. What have you found that works for you?

    I really enjoyed reading the piece and it left me pondering on what will come next.


    1. Ryan Harwood says:

      Thanks Cate. I’m glad you enjoyed reading and it made you ponder. Pondering is a beautiful thing. I think we all should be on the watchtower, because you’re right, technology hasn’t really changed our educational systems. The classrooms where it has a major impact on learning are too few and far between. I often wonder why, and then I’m reminded as teachers complain about having so much content to cover and feeling as if they don’t have the time to use technology. Or at least not to use it in any meaningful way.

      I think we need to look back toward our teacher training programs for some change. I would love to know what the technology component of those courses looks like. Are future teachers still sitting in a room listening to lectures about how to make a good powerpoint?

      I’d like to see more creation with our technology. Yes, curriculum is essential, but does it really need to be covered? The classes when my students have walked out saying “That was interesting!” have never been the ones where we just covered content. It was when we had great discussions, or often when we decided to try something new together. We have to remember these ideas as we look for any change in our systems.

      And yes, music is key in my life as well. “When it hits, you feel no pain”.


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