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Education, Teaching, Technology

Technology Is Not THE Answer

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flickr photo by walknboston

For some time now, I have been considering a Tweet I read while at a recent technology conference.  The gist of the comment was that technology is not a tool, it is an experience that will lead to student success.  Technology is not a tool?  I would argue that technology is exactly that…a tool…a powerful tool if applied correctly…but a tool nonetheless.

There is a certain degree of risk in assuming that just by “experiencing” technology, our students will benefit.  As an example, consider PowerPoint.  PowerPoint has become a tool of choice for classroom teachers to “incorporate” technology, but that dones not mean it is effective.  While completing a registration form for the upcoming Computer Using Educator’s Conference, I had to laugh at the title of one of the sessions: PowerPointless – The Art of Electronic Chloroform.  How true!  Bad instructional practice and pedagogy is still bad, even with the incorporation of technology.

We shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that the critical skills our students need to develop – problem solving, collaboration, leadership, creativity, difference making – are so dependent upon the use of technology that we forget to pursue traditional means of fostering growth in these areas. The reality is that even though many of our schools are moving in the direction of increased technology access (i.e. wireless campuses, 1:1 laptop initiatives, use of personal technology devices), we are not there yet.  However, that does not mandate us to carry out “business as usual,” nor does it excuse us from exploring creative ways to foster 21st century skill development–even if our level of access isn’t ideal.  A recent post entitled Paper Blogging on Rod Lucier’s blog The Clever Sheep, addressed a unique way of introducing students to the art of blogging and commenting–sans computers.  What a fantastic way to engage students in the writing process, encourage collaboration and develop a sense of ownership.

We shouldn’t succumb to participation paralysis–a phenomena frequently seen in the applied use of educational technology in the classroom.  Too many tools.  Too many obstacles.  Too many students.  Too many restrictions.  Not enough technology.  Not sure where to begin.  As educational leaders, we must advocate for the utilization of technology, but we also need to remember that technology is a “means to an end (or beginning)”, not necessarily “the end.”
As I have previously mentioned, I believe we have an obligation to help students learn to use technology to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of their learning experience.  That being said, we need to understand that technology is not the answer to student success–it is however, a significant part of the solution.


About azjd

Junior high principal by day, aspiring difference maker, and Jedi in my own mind. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.


9 thoughts on “Technology Is Not THE Answer

  1. Great post. You have really captured the need for developing the process for understanding the when, whys and hows to using these powerful tools. And yes, technology is a significant part of the process in that when used appropriately it is a great motivator and leads to high engagement. Further, the combination of the proper use of technology develops the 21st Century skills that you mentioned in your post.

    Posted by Kevin Biles | March 7, 2011, 11:52 pm
  2. Technology offers many tools for learning and yes, they are tools. Any tool requires that the user is trained in its use. We can’t park a 747 in someone’s driveway in the hope that they will be motivated to become a pilot. That is what is done with many educators. We place interactive white boards in rooms hoping the teacher will figure it out. We provide software and show the bells and whistles without working with the teacher to address how this translates to what can be done to help specific skills in the classroom. Teachers do not need to know all of the functions of an application, but they need to know what that application has to do with what they teach. The details of the app will be learned as the teacher develops lessons, if the teacher has the big picture.
    Using Powerpoint with all the bells and whistles will overpower an audience. Using Powerpoint with an understanding of the communication concept that “less is more” in a presentation makes the application a more powerful tool.
    People are overwhelmed with all of the Tech info thrown at them. We need to address that which they need to know in a small way.They need to see how the tech is relevant to what they teach and what students need to learn. It is hoped that once they get the big picture, they can participate in their own learning to expand that knowledge and use the tool to take themselves and their students further.We can’t buy the tech without providing relevant and meaningful Professional Development. An untrained carpenter will always blame the tools.

    Posted by tomwhitby | March 8, 2011, 6:58 am
  3. I totally agree with you! Someone said to me that if I teach my students to use technological tools, then I won’t have a job! My response: Great! I want to teach myself out of a job because I know that my role as an educator will and needs to change. the real-world will not hire a student and his educational assistant however, they will hire a student and his technological toolkit!!

    Posted by Jessie Krefting | March 8, 2011, 7:12 am
  4. What a great topic and thanks for putting it out there. Unbeknownst to teacher very expensive handheld PlayStations were purchased to access very low grade educational software. The result: the technology sits on the shelf, akin to Tom’s 747 reference.

    I’ve heard the quote, “I’m not going to apologize for trying to engage students through technology.” I’m aware that people were working in the best interest of our students, however, I wholeheartedly agree that technology is the vehicle and not the destination.

    I would adore 1:1 laptops for my 4th graders. But, it’s because they could allow us all to access a black white page. The difference technology makes, it allows the act of communication to become an artifact.

    We use a wiki for all of our process writing. The kids aren’t engaged because they get to press buttons, they’re engaged because they receive comments from peers whom they respect

    Posted by mike lewis | March 8, 2011, 3:42 pm
  5. Awesome blog post academic and encouraging. Will fwd it on to contacts.

    Posted by Kishan | March 8, 2011, 10:25 pm
  6. I respectfully disagree.

    I think technology is so fully ingrained in our lives (in the global community) that it has become a core subject that needs more attention. That is not to say that one needs to integrate technology into every lesson, or even at all. However, our students need to be completely comfortable using technology and learning new technologies. They need opportunities to use the technology for its own sake, without trying to force it into a lesson where it doesn’t belong.

    Posted by Stephanie Baier | March 9, 2011, 6:09 pm
  7. To clarify… I don’t think technology is THE answer, just that it is way more than a tool. 🙂

    Posted by Stephanie Baier | March 9, 2011, 6:13 pm
    • Thanks for your comments Stephanie. I don’t disagree with you. As you might imagine, I am a huge proponent of technology and I agree that we have an obligation to ensure our students are comfortable with its use and application.

      Posted by azjd | March 9, 2011, 7:53 pm
  8. Nicely put…

    Posted by Laura Servage | August 6, 2011, 9:30 pm

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Jeff Delp

Junior high principal by day, sports enthusiast, technology fanatic and jedi in my own mind. Striving to be a difference maker!
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