Author Jeff Utecht on How the Web Affects Students Today

Distinguished educator and consultant Jeff Utecht is with us today. Jeff is the Elementary Technology and Learning Coordinator at the International School Bangkok, and has written Reach, a book about building learning communities. Jeff has also spoken at TedxKrungthep. He is with us today to share his views on education and technology.

1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got involved with education.

I knew I was going to be an educator in high school. I had enough credits to graduate and instead of taking early dismissal or late start, I signed up for a program called Elementary Experience where my high school allowed me to go to an elementary school within the district and volunteer my time. I headed back to my old elementary school and was able to volunteer in my 4th grade teacher’s classroom Mrs. Hubble.

It was the best experience ever, she treated me as a regular teacher and even evaluated me using the same evaluation tool as the school district used. I loved it and from that moment on I knew I wanted to be a teacher.

2. What makes the current generation of students different from others in terms of technology?

I talked about this in a recent blog post and in my recent TEDx talk. Students today have always had the web. Seniors in our schools today where born in 1992 and the WWW as we know it started in 1991. They know no different and we need to understand that when we engage them in activities in the classroom.

Not to long ago a teacher in the primary school was using flash cards and came to the letter T that had a typewriter on it. Kids had no idea what a typewriter was and I think that sums up this generation. They are web based, mobile, and connected and they know no different.

3. Do you think it’s possible to one day have an all-online education?

Is it possible? Yes. Is it what is best for kids? No.

There is a reason we still gather as humans face to face and that is to be social. It’s the same reason why students come to school every day. Learning is second to being social with friends. Hence the reason why Facebook and cell phones cause such a problem in schools. Kids want to be…..need to be social. I do think we’re going to see significate changes in education and how we teach, but I don’t believe an all-online education is the best for kids. I would hate to see dance, or drama, or band, or PE move online. There are still reasons we need schools, but the content, the curriculum, they need to change, must change, to stay relavant with what students need to be learning to be successful in the digital global world that awaits them.

4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology in education?

Curriculum and a belief that technology is a subject to be taught not a tool to be used. We talk about how schools haven’t changed for a hundred years, but curriculum development has not changed as well. We still teach things we taught 100 years ago and in the same way. Not all of that content is meaningful in today’s fast pace world. We need to rethink education on a deep level that includes kids being constantly connected. Because whether we want them to or now…they are.

5. What developments in educational technology personally excite you?

I think the idea of connected knowledge and web-based resources. The ability to connect ideas, videos, images and create a curriculum around what is out there freely on the web has me most excited.

On a hardware side, it is this convergence of devices that we see coming. Laptops meeting cell phones meetings iPads or other devices similar to it. We’re getting to a point where these devices are at a price point that every students should be expected just to have one. Once we get our textbooks on these devices we’ll see a tipping point in the role of technology in the classroom and in changing the learning landscape.

Thanks for talking to us Jeff! Again, you can find his book Reach here. For more information on revolutionizing education see udemy’s main website here.