1. What inspired you to write Web 2.0 and Leading 21st-Century Schools?
I have been studying, researching and teaching about technology integration for more than two decades and I finally began to realize that no matter what a teacher may try to do, if the school leaders (building level and district level) do not support it, the teacher ma y be completely isolated and frustrated. It is not unusual to ‘blame the teacher’ for the lack of meaningful integration, but in reality, teachers do what works for their children, and what is supported and encouraged by their administrators. If the teachers do not have the training, technical support and knowledge, and access to good materials, how can we expect them to create well developed lessons that challenge, engage, and encourage each child? I investigated what our school leaders (primarily principals) are required to know about integrating technology and leading change, and found that overall, it is zero! That led to the book.
2. What makes the current generation of students different from others in terms of technology?
A lot has been said about our learners all growing up with vast technology in their hands, which is true; however, I see this as much more involved than that. Our students do expect instant connections, and immediate responses and they tend to text, talk, SMS, and surf a great deal. But I am not a believer that their brains have changed. I believe that they now expect us to provide relevant, authentic and engaging activities and material in meaningful ways. Do they need to memorize the fifty state capitals? Maybe not. Do they need to know when to multiply and when to divide? Absolutely! I think we as educators must take on the hard task of purposefully examining the content and asking ourselves to consider what must be memorized, what needs to be learned in other ways, and what types of things are not essential for our students to know by heart.
3. How can technology and the internet change education?
Access to current information, global experts, and creativity is one change and it means we have the possibility of finding ways to really engage and motivate our learners. We have to recognize the power of what is available. Students must have experience in being cautious and careful consumers of what is available. But now we read about what is happening in another country, and can engage in a conversation with someone working on the issue or problem. As our entire nation watches the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, are we educators using this as a teachable moment? Think of the possibilities to engage students in investigating topics in math, science, literacy, and even social activities.
4. What is the biggest obstacle in integrating technology in the classroom?
All the research says time is the biggest problem. I agree it is one important factor but not the only one. Teachers need to have leadership that says this is an important aspect of a 21st Century school and we need to take advantage of the affordances of the technology currently available to us. I almost weep when I see schools spend their limited resources on Electronic Smartboards without helping teachers understand the power they offer. As always some teachers will take the time to investigate, develop, and promote their use; but others need help and support. Do we give them what they need? If we did, and promoted what is already available, teachers would have more possibility of making effective use of the technology. Here is an example. The Department of Education sponsors many efforts to make information available in content areas. They fund a National History Education Clearinghouse (http://teachinghistory.org/) which offers amazing resources, organized primary sources with lesson plans, and technology links that support what teachers do. Having a school wide discussion focused on the resources available would do wonders to change the conversation.
5. Do you think it is possible to one day have an all-online classroom in the future?
I think we have a lot of examples of this working for post-secondary education students and most states offer high school classes online. These tend to be for the more advanced subjects because no matter what, succeeding requires that the learner be self-directed and also have whatever background knowledge the specific subject requires. On the other hand, I hope we never move elementary and middle school classes totally online, because that so minimizes the importance of the other things we hope to teach in these grades.