In 2005 (2005!) Marc Prensky wrote about the process of technology adoption as typically a four-step process:
Doing old things in old ways
Doing old things in new ways
Doing new things in new ways.
When a new technology appears, Prensky noted seven years ago, “our first instinct is always to continue doing things within the technology the way we've always done it.” Seven years later, we are still struggling to get past dabbling or doing old things in old ways. Witness our extolling the virtues of the “flipped classroom,” which merely flips two old things done in old ways – lectures become homework. As Ira Socal argues, it’s “the same classroom, just re-arranged”.
But it’s hard to figure out how to do new things with these new tools when we are still comfortable with our old ways. Jared Cohen is a Google Ideas director thinking about how we can harness what he calls “connection technologies” (the term social media, he argues, is too limiting) to address global challenges. He argues that new things happen in places where necessity inspires innovation. Witness, he says, the Arab Spring.
The hardest part of doing new things is that you cannot imagine them. Today, a bright spot for me was doing an old thing – a meeting - on Google+. It was necessitated by snow – it seemed dangerously ridiculous to drive when we could meet online. What was marvelous, as we navigated the new space, figuring out the glitches, finding the features – is beginning, at the edge of our imaginations, to consider the ways we could use this tool that we were using in an old way. But using it was a start. Using it with imaginative, passionate, thoughtful colleagues was even better. I’m betting that right now they are already thinking about how we can have book clubs with students across the district or peer edit sessions between schools or connect students meaningfully with community mentors or…..