Editor’s Note: Robert J. Hutter is Chairman of Edmodo, which aims to "help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner", as well as a Managing Partner of Learn Capital, a venture capital firm concentrating on the global education sector. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Robert J. Hutter.
By Robert J. Hutter - Special to CNN
Technology has long had its supporters and detractors in K-12 education. But until recently, regardless of one’s view, technology has had a minor role to play in the everyday work of K-12 schooling. This is now changing at rapid speed.
Advances in easily portable computing devices and the growing presence of wireless Internet access in schools have quietly worked to create a genuine tipping point that classroom educators are now leveraging to change the very scope of their ability to teach.
Thanks to new devices, their connectivity and the rise of cloud-based collaboration services designed for school, teachers are turning their classrooms into always-on learning communities. They are bringing the educational power of the web directly into the fabric of their conversations. I believe this will lead to one of the most dramatic improvements in K-12 learning ever seen.
Thanks in large measure to the genius of Steve Jobs, today’s ultraportable computing devices have long battery lives, are durable, and are as powerful as yesterday’s high-end desktop PC. Many of these devices already cost less than a graphing calculator and are just a few dollars more than a new science textbook.
At these price points, iPod touches, iPhones, iPads, Android devices and netbooks have already scaled the schoolhouse walls. A recent Project Tomorrow study cited in Education Week pegged a full two thirds of U.S. parents as expecting to purchase a device for their kids to use in school in the upcoming 12 months.
The Internet can at last be harnessed in education for what it actually is - the largest repository of learning objects in existence. On the Internet, instructional content lives beside content that is only incidentally instructional, but any item of content rapidly transforms into something educational when, curated by a teacher, it occupies the center of a classroom conversation.
Because the cloud connects teachers too, educators quickly share knowledge with each other about what practices are more powerful than others – and which resources are more appropriate for students at vastly different places in their learning journey. With just a few clicks, fifth grade teachers can let students track data as it is live-streamed from a radio telescope pointed at the Andromeda Galaxy; tenth grade teachers can provide their students with the tools to interpret this data and can even let them guide the telescope’s controls itself.
As educators begin to directly incorporate powerful web resources into their lessons, they not only engage their students at levels that maximize excitement and attendance, they also help create a connected network of classrooms and learners that allows a constant cycle of improvement to take root.
These forces are already driving a generational change in the nature of educational experiences available to students. The acceleration of this change is only just beginning. With it comes the promise of a new normal of deeply meaningful, highly collaborative learning that will have a profound impact on education outcomes across the globe.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Robert J. Hutter.