Sunday, July 12, 2015

Pushing back against the scorn of “using tech for tech’s sake”


I recently attended the ISTE 2015 Conference in Philadelphia. In several of the educational technology sessions that I attended a theme very prominently emerged: Using technology in schools “for its own sake” was a practice to be avoided at all costs and far too many schools were guilty of pursuing it.

The contention of course is that instead of using tech for its own sake, technology should be subservient to good pedagogy. Ideally, technology would be used to construct creative lessons and achieve experiences for students that would be impossible without it.

This argument on the face of it is entirely persuasive. However, I think it is a bit of a straw man and overlooks some powerful realities about building a culture of innovative educational practice with technology.

I will make two points referencing two presentations by educational thought-leaders who I follow closely and reference frequently at the Drive-thru — Scott McLeod (@mcleod) and George Couros (@gcouros).

Scott and Julie Graber lead a three-hour workshop on “Tech-Infused Lessons for Deeper Thinking”. They introduced a model for determining if technology is being applied to achieve deeper learning in class activities. In groups we deconstructed and discussed case studies especially identifying instances where technology was included in a lesson but was helping to achieve significant learning objectives. We then suggested how the lessons could be redesigned to advance deeper thinking.

I felt our critiques failed to recognize one important consideration: When and where will the students learn the technology tools that make-up their toolbox for self-directed learning and product creation? 

I plead guilty to at times using tech pretty much for its own sake. I’ve done so in order to allow students to familiarize themselves with tools or rehearse using them.  For example, for a simulation in my American Government classes, students needed to be able to collaborate, share, create, and research using various tools.

They did not know how to use these tools when they came to class. While they were exceedingly helpful to each other in gaining competency with these tools, success required time and practice. Consequently, I attached requirements to use tech tools into other activities even though they did not add value beyond tech for its own sake in those particular lessons. I wanted them to have enough experience so that they could leverage the tools to achieve the kind of self-direction and critical thinking that McLeod and Draper urge us to seek. 

In other words if the teacher does not do some tech for its own sake isn’t he or she failing to prepare these students for challenges that leverage these tools? Contrary to what many adults suppose, kids don’t just “pick up” the knowledge of how to use any kind of technology. 

Well, this post has gotten way too long. I will resume next time with my reaction to a George Couros resource that reflects on technology leadership— a subject near and dear to my heart.

1 comment:

Kelly Dumont said...

Larry, some great thoughts here. Agree wholeheartedly. A time and place for everything.

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