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.

5 thoughts on “Technology – Education’s magic bullet?

  1. I think the pushback is beginning and voices like yours and mine will gain more traction in time. Not sure we will be able to get away with saying “I told you so!” we may get stoned.

    As I become more and more immersed in using technology in the classroom and beginning to give access to my eldest daughter, I am convinced of one thing. Technology amplifies foundational skills, it does not compensate for a lack of those skills.

    The strong kids who are capable without, sore with tech. Weak kids can mask deficiencies in foundational skill with the Pretty Prezi but in the end strong foundations win.

    I read about an English teacher recently, who began using twitter in the classroom (I should have bookmarked it) The assumption was that it would give all kids the equal opportunity to share thoughts in 140 characters or less. What this teacher found was that in even just 140 characters, the kids with strong literacy skills were head and shoulders above the kids with weaker literacy skills. In this case it would almost seem that the use of twitter actually had the reverse effect.

    I will say it once again… Tech amplifies foundational skills it does not compensate for a lack of…

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Keith. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond!

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