Thursday, May 21, 2009

Technology Doesn't Matter

Ben Grey has a great post this week that is sparking discussion among ed techies about "Why Technology?" In his post he says more and more important decision makers, those writing the checks, are asking "Why are we using technology?"

My standard line has always been that we use technology in our district to enhance our curriculum, engage students and improve the overall quality of our learning environments. Too often I think we look at how much technology costs. How often do we look at how much it saves us? Our big push now is for online curriculum guides. What happens to the money we AREN'T spending on paper and binders? If we use Skype or iChat or purchase webinar software, how much money would we save on mileage? Not to mention, we are doing a little part for the Earth. We haven't even started discussing (and won't here) how much more engaged students are in a truly interactive learning environment. Higher engagement with a quality curriculum leads to smarter kids.

But it's not about technology. A great quote from Bud Hunt's podcast "Why Technology?":
The reasons why you pick a blog as a tool have to do with what it is you’re trying to do with the writing … the writing should be the really important thing in a blog, not the fact that you used a blog. I think with technology we allow ourselves to get excited that we’ve used a new tool even though maybe we didn’t actually do anything with it, we just sort of picked it up and waved it around.

Quality teachers use technology transparently. Everyone has to have a little "Bright Shiny Object Syndrome" to start out with, but the sooner you get past that, the sooner you develop rich learning environments.

Steve Dembo of Discovery Ed also has a great response entitled "Common Sense Revolts" in which he concludes by saying we use technology

Because every career in the world is being impacted by it.

Because every student has an equal opportunity to ruin their chances of being successful through it.

Because it’s the right thing to do.

The amount of technology a school district has doesn't make it an exemplary district. The way a school district utilizes technology to enhance their quality curriculum and engage their students makes it a model for others to follow.

Ben has been adding lots of great responses to his original post. Two that really stick out to me:

Given the choice, would we teach pilots how to fly using a simulator built last year or one built 30 years ago? Would we want our doctors to still use thermometers filled with mercury? (Yes, I'm old enough to remember those days.) Would we choose a car that gets 10 miles to the gallon and has lap buckles for safety? (I remember those, too.)
We implicitly choose newer technology over older technology all the time in our daily lives, yet when it comes to the classroom, many seem to think the old ways are inherently better. And I know it's because figuring out how to use the latest technologies well to foster learning in our classrooms isn't as simple as getting into that new car and turning the key ( or pushing the button) and having it all just work. In those cases, we're the users, not the designers. But as teachers, aren't we the designers of learning for our students? Aren't we charged with constantly redefining, rethinking, rebuilding what we do based on the best of what is currently available to us?

and Deven Black-
"Use the right ruler and you'll get valid measurements; otherwise you're trying to measure apples by looking at oranges."

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