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On October 26, 2013 I had the honor of giving the keynote for the 26th Annual New Jersey Association for Educational Technology (NJAET) Conference. The conference theme was Digital Momentum and my message revolved around the evolution of our schools and how connected educators are building digital momentum.  What follows is the first in a series of posts about my message based on my notes, my presentation and my beliefs as a connected educator.

Welcome to the future of Education. Today, I will talk to you about this year’s conference theme: Digital Momentum. It’s the perfect theme for where we are as educators, and what education can and should be for our students.  As I discuss our theme I need to do so through a story of how it was, how it is and how it will eventually be for us as educators and our students.

The story is about three types of educators who are examples of our evolution in education which is happening right before our eyes. They are:

The textbook educator;  Image

The device educator;  and

The digital educator

The textbook educator found a focus on information within the pages of a book. Textbook educators loved the book, the paper, and how it felt to have a book in your hand, but the information was outdated before it went to print. The textbook educator used tools like chalk and blackboards to engage those in the learning environment. The textbook learner used notebooks, pens and pencils. Learning was lecture, take notes, take a test, grade in red pen, and repeat the cycle. For the textbook educator this felt right for a very long time because that’s the way we were taught and that’s the way we were trained to teach so that’s the way we taught. We continued the cycle. If we were all born 50 years earlier then this would not be an issue. The status quo was comfortable for educators and learners for a very long time.

But then came the era of the device educator. This was a huge shift because the way we did things, as humans, was about to change. The way we communicate, view things, process things, pay for things and get information was changing before our eyes. That change was a Global Technology Change! When did this begin? For some of you, you will remember it from an iconic commercial in 1984 by Macintosh.

Global Technology Change forced a very traditional institution with a century of consistency to change. It made us put our chalk down. It made us put our pencils down. It made us think twice about using paper. We didn’t look for Global Technology Change. It came looking for us.

At first we ignored it by saying, “Don’t worry… this can’t last!” and “Computers will never be part of the classroom!” Schools fought it for a few years. But society moved the change forward until education realized life as we knew it for the last century was now changing. And so change would have to occur in schools too.

When the devices first started to show up in schools they were used as a rewards, something special and they were something that was an add-on to the learning environment. We didn’t know any better. But as we began to learn about these devices, and the devices began to increase in our schools, the device educator was born. First came the desktop, then the laptop, now the tablet and iPad. The device educator found value in each.

But in the background there was the development of software and digital content that was about to usher in the next evolution of educator who wasn’t bound by textbook or device. In reality, as more devices entered the school some educators realized that the device no longer mattered. And so the digital educator was born. This educator is also known as the connected educator. This educator is you.

Momentum has been building in education from the time the first device entered the school but that momentum has accelerated with the advent of the digital educator. You are transforming education right in front of everyone’s eyes. You are engaging students in learning that is neither bound by location or time. You are creating an environment that allows learning to happen at any time, anywhere, in any place. Sir Ken Robinson understands how powerful this can be and has discussed it extensively.

This learning environment has a name. It’s an A-Word… and I’ll discuss it in the second post in this series!