Education and Technology: Are You Restrictive or Relevant?

Did you watch the Olympics this summer? Were you pleased or annoyed with NBC’s decision to tape-delay the main events? Many viewers were frustrated that they could not avoid finding out the results well before the events were broadcast on TV. “NBC has been criticized for not televising live some of the London Games’ marquee events like swimming and gymnastics so they can be aired later in prime time.” (By David Bauder) As a result, some people turned to live online streaming coverage or removed themselves from all technology access during the day so as not to spoil their Olympics experience.

In addition to being able to watch live events online, the London 2012 Olympics were the first Olympics to attempt to harness the power of social media. But just like NBC faced criticism for its delayed broadcast, the International Olympic Committee (IOC)  faced criticism for its social media approach to. In her article for Forbes magazine, “A New Social Media Strategy for the Olympics, Future Sporting Events” Adriana Lopez critiques the IOC’s lack of fundamental understanding of social media communications, “From the social media restrictions made on the Olympic Athletes to the blame that was put on the fans for jamming GPS systems and networks with tweets and texts, it was brutally evident that the IOC had no understanding of the role social media platforms have played in shaping the way the world, and more specifically the Millennial Generation, communicates today.” She goes on to explain that by trying to control the online conversation with rules and restrictions, the organizers may actually be diminishing the Olympic brand and making it less relevant to the younger generation, “When it comes down to it, if an organization places restrictions that limits the way it engages with the public, such as the ones placed on the Olympic athletes, it will eventually have an adverse effect on the brand over time, gradually making it less relevant.”

How about you? Do you fundamentally understand the role that technology tools and social media play in the lives of your students? Are you attempting to restrict and limit the role technology plays in the way today’s students learn? If so, you run the risk that your classroom and your school are indeed becoming less and less relevant to your students.

The Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity for educators to narrow our focus and adequately prepare students for college and career. In the 21st century world in which we live, that cannot be done without the technology available 24 hours a day outside our school walls. Sheryl Nussbaum from the 21st Century Collaborative describes the disconnect this way, “With the advent of the social web, learning is anytime, anywhere, networked and collaborative; and it’s already being done in large measure by our children – without us. Through various social media, their worlds are becoming more and more networked, creating environments for learning and collaborating that look very little like the classrooms in which you and I grew up. Everywhere they go students are moving toward the future at full speed ahead- until they come to school, where they have to power down.” We need to provide students with the critical thinking and communication skills that will make success in such a connected world possible and we can’t do that when everything about that connected world shuts down within the school walls. The Common Core State Standards integrate the notion of preparing students for a connected and media-rich world throughout the standards and the expectations for students, “To be ready for college, workforce training, and life in a technological society, students need the ability to gather, comprehend, evaluate, synthesize, and report on information and ideas, to conduct original research in order to answer questions or solve problems, and to analyze and create a high volume and extensive range of print and nonprint texts in media forms old and new.”

As principals and teachers how can we harness technology tools and social media to engage students with critical thinking, problem-solving and effective communication and collaboration in order to meet the college and career readiness demands of the Common Core?

Lopez concludes her article on the “Twitter Olympics” with this last piece of advice to the IOC , “Olympics, it’s never too late to start engaging with your community positively. Let it happen naturally – don’t manage, rather influence and guide the conversation.”  As educators we would do well to follow this advice and rather than trying to eliminate and control 21st century technology and social media, we should be using it as a tool to engage our students in critical analysis and communication as we influence and guide their learning.

Unlike the Olympic organizers, we still have time to make the right choice.


Diane Rymer is our Director of Professional Development and is responsible for the overall development and implementation for all of our professional development programs. Diane brings a wealth of professional development experience, including Supervisor of Professional Development at Baltimore County Public Schools and Assistant Director of Professional Development at Maryland Public Television. Diane earned her Master’s of Science/Technology for Educators from John Hopkins University and her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Loyola University, Maryland.


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