Putting technology in a classroom is like starting a fire

The landscape is forever changed once a fire has devoured everything in its path. Trees may grow back over time, but nothing will be the same as before.

Introducing technology into a classroom is the same way. Laptops and tablets are tiny sparks, and the conflagration begins once the teacher allows students to freely use them. From what I’ve observed, a teacher’s classroom is altered once the fire begins. Desks in rows go up in smoke, and groups blossom in the aftermath. A teacher-centric model disintegrates as student-centric learning blooms.

Ideas have done this throughout history. Sometimes it takes a certain person to start the fire, but once the flames engulf people’s minds, change is coming. I’ve spoken to multiple teachers this school year who told me they could never go back to a classroom without devices. They weren’t joking–they really never want to teach without laptops or tablets again because 1) the classroom wasn’t as exciting before and 2) there are so many wonderful ways the students can learn and produce.

The effects of this edtech renaissance we’re presently experiencing have yet to be fully realized, but there’s one thing we know for sure: Everything will change once students have access to the internet and can create and produce with devices at their fingertips. 

Hatching Twitter

I’m a sucker for Silicon Valley empire building stories. First there was The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich about the tumultuous creation of Facebook. Now we have Nick Bilton’s Hatching Twitter.

There’s a pattern afoot in these historic assemblages. A group of young, brilliant people come together. A revolutionary idea is born, and there is no consensus on who the founder is.

The Accidental Billionaires went on to be made into the movie The Social Network. I’ve heard Hatching Twitter will follow suit–possibly in the form of a television series. That’s fitting, especially if the filmmakers want to capture the full spectacle of Twitter’s genesis, which is truly the most exciting part of the story no matter where Twitter goes from here.

Facebook and Twitter’s beginnings are intriguing because they reveal how creations assemble themselves–specifically technology. It’s as if the internet was finally ready for Twitter, and if the people who made it showed up a tad later with the product, then something else would have satisfied the need. Of course, hungrier technologies can always supplant the first comers (á la MySpace and Facebook), but the point is that technology needs to grow, and there will always be people who help meet this insistence.

It’s also true that when people work together on a project, the end result is a melding of all ideas. Let’s face it, how can the percentage of responsibility for an idea be accurately calculated? Someone may have voiced an idea that was relatively minor, but it birthed a number of ideas in the minds of others that propelled the vision forward. How much is the initial contribution worth? Also, is a lot of work on a project–say, writing the code or creating the design–as important as a few vital ideas sprinkled throughout the collaboration (like the company’s name, color, branding, etc.)?

Following how this works itself out is fascinating. Hatching Twitter is a fun read in its entirety.