Before you think that this the beginning of a theme, based on last week’s post, let me assure you, I’m not anti-technology. Having said that, I’m not convinced that what technology brings to education is not 100% positive. I am getting tired of hearing people talk about technology as if it were some kind of magic bullet. Your students aren’t engaged? Throw technology at them. Your students don’t read? Give them digital books. Your students aren’t achieving? Let’s get ’em on line.
The reality is that technology can offer powerful alternatives to traditional modes of learning. Technology can break down barriers of time and place. Learners can generate ideas in collaboration with others around the world. Students can submit assignments at a time and in a mode that is best for their personal learning styles. But at the same time, technology can encourage lazy, shallow thinking.
I think that everyone recognizes the fact that reading online can be a very distracting experience. As soon as one encounters a hyper-link, off they go! An hour and another few dozen hyper-jumps later, the realization comes that the impetus document has not been read any more than a sentence or two and no document has been read in depth. Although this mode of thinking can encourage serendipitous connection and context building, as a default mode, this simply exhibits a lack of depth.
Technology can also make things too easy. If I can build a Prezzi presentation that looks slick with all sorts of cool zooms, images and links, I will. Let’s face it, it’s easy to build slick. But does slick serve the message? When is there so much emphasis on presentation that it detracts from content? How often do students get seduced by the bells and whistles that they forget the reason that they’re building the presentation in the first place?
The next time we look for the techie option for producing an assignment, let’s take a step back and ask ourselves why. If the technology is serving the learning, by all means, lets use it. If we recognize that the tech way will make the learning that much more powerful, go all in. But if we’re adding technology to an otherwise already outstanding learning experience, then go old school. There is often nothing wrong with pencil and paper technology.