Visiting academic urges educators to get serious about technology

17 February 2011

A US academic visiting the University of Canterbury believes educators worldwide are struggling to adapt to the digital, global era in which we live.

A US academic visiting the University of Canterbury believes educators worldwide are struggling to adapt to the digital, global era in which we live.

Dr Scott McLeod, Director of the UCEA Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education (CASTLE) and current visiting Canterbury Fellow at UC, will present the first of the College of Education's 2011 Prestige Lectures on Monday 28 February.

In a presentation titled "Two big shifts and one big problem: The growing disconnects between schools, universities and our digital, global society", Dr McLeod will argue that outside the educational enterprise, seismic shifts in our information and economic landscapes are rapidly and drastically altering every single information-oriented societal sector. However, in contrast, primary, secondary and tertiary educators are struggling to keep pace with this changing landscape and adapt their teaching accordingly.

"These technology tools suffuse everything that we do. We are all now globally interconnected and I think what we are finding is that schools are neither - digital or global - and universities are suffering a lot of disconnects as well, between the world at large and how we've always done things."

Dr McLeod says his talk will address what sort of leadership is necessary to create learning environments to prepare students and graduates for this new era.

"Our schooling paradigms are based on the mid-20th century, if not earlier, and not 2011 and beyond but I think we are discovering some key things that need to be done."

Dr McLeod would like to see a powerful digital learning device in the hands of every student, wider high-speed broadband Internet access and more robust online learning opportunities for students so they are no longer limited by geography or time in their learning.

"These are three key building blocks that I think are generic enough to handle whatever comes next and if I had to add a fourth one I'd say that for developed countries like New Zealand and the States we need to place a greater emphasis on higher order thinking skills in our learning and teaching, because low level cognitive work is increasingly being off-shored to other countries in the developing world because it is cheaper. If we want to justify our standard of living and our salary and wage premiums compared to the rest of the world we better earn it with the appropriate skills."

Dr McLeod does not underestimate what a difficult task the education sector faces.

"It's a huge challenge - how do you turn our systems of learning, which we have spent decades refining for the old way of doing things, in new directions? It's going to require if not new funding, different funding. It's going to require new kinds of policy and legislation that we don't have right now. It's going to require different kinds of leadership and mental mindsets about what school should look like."

Dr McLeod is being hosted by the School of Literacies and Arts in Education for the duration of term one. While a Canterbury Fellow he will be guest lecturing into a variety of courses both face-to-face and online; establishing new research collaborations; helping with course design; and connecting with local educator groups. Next week he is also keynoting and giving multiple presentations at the Learning@School Conference in Rotorua, the education technology conference for New Zealand educators.

Dr McLeod is an Associate Professor in the Educational Administration program at Iowa State University. As CASTLE Director, he heads the only academic centre in the United States dedicated to the technology needs of school administrators. He is co-creator of the popular video series Did You Know? (Shift Happens) and blogs regularly about technology leadership issues at dangerouslyirrelevant.org. He has received numerous awards in America for his technology leadership work.

  • The College of Education Prestige Lecture will take place from 4-5pm on Monday 28 February in Lecture Theatre 2 at the College of Education, Dovedale Avenue. Please RSVP for this event by contacting: tracey.gaskin@canterbury.ac.nz.
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