“It’s Not About The Technology”

Refocus

I’m certainly not the first person to utter that sentence in reference to the integration of modern technology into the world of education.  This was originally posted to our school’s professional learning network, Virtual Southside, here.

*Full size image linked in citation below.

Then what is it about?

Folks… our mission really isn’t about the “technology.” I think most of us are starting to come to that realization. I would love for you to weigh in on this assertion. I am becoming less and less fond of the “…if we’re gonna be the ‘technology school’…….” phrase. Are you?

To be honest, I never did want that. The reason we used the “technology” moniker is that: 1) it was largely “given” to us, and 2) it is familiar to all who hear it. As you know, familiarity can distort meaning. What we believe in is a move toward a student-centered, constructivist learning environment. The fact that we believe the best way to achieve this goal is through the integrated use of emerging 21st Century technologies… does not make us a “technology school.” A technology school is a school that is centered upon gadgets and tools. Some would say this is all “semantics.” I couldn’t disagree more vigorously.

Our goal as high school teachers is to deliver a relevant and rigorous curriculum laden with the concepts and facts of many different schools of knowledge… as well as (and perhaps most importantly) the processes of learning. “Technology” is not our curriculum. Nobody writes “use chalk here” in a curriculum guide, and mentioning any other technology will only date your work in about two years.  Technological tools are way to interact with said content and process… but they are only the curriculum itself in a scant few of our courses.

Honoring PD in this area for once

I never wanted us to “teach technology.” I have always wanted us to use modern and emerging technologies to access and extend our current curriculum. Are there times we need to directly teach the best uses of a tool? Yes, of course… but this is just the first tiny step.  The first waypoint in this mission is to ensure that we are collectively savvy as a faculty first.  Continuing to put laptops in the hands of kids, all the while skipping directly over the lead learners in the room is just…  wrong.  It is ineffective, irresponsible and wrong.  I’m so glad that we have a staff who believes in this important part of our mission.

Therefore, I would like to propose a new set of language about what we are doing as we move forth into year two of our initiative:

Benton High 21st Century Learning Initiative

Really think about what this title says.

Finding our own way

I think the kids who have had the opportunity to interact with our cohort teachers this year are far more adept at accessing information and in finding creative new ways of demonstrating their learning than ever before. We have all absorbed that which we found most valuable throughout this first year. Our development should be allowed to be as close to the constructivist ideal we seek for the classroom.  Why wouldn’t we?  Some of us have even carried the torch directly into our classrooms at a very high level already. I have seen it with my own two eyes. The district “tech study committee” saw this as well in our classrooms in a recent walkthrough of our building.

With the coming summer of reflection and relaxed study, we will surely begin our second year far more prepared to bring this learning to our students in the classroom in a very regular and integrated way. What do you think?

*Artwork: “move technology to invisibility” courtesy Will Lion on Flickr

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Sean Nash

District Online Learning Coordinator (eCampus) in a large public district of over thirty individual schools. Most recently, a district instruction coordinator. Biology instructor since 1993. Find more about my passions and my work at http://nashworld.me

8 Comments

  1. This is a very topical post as we are working on developing our school’s Expected Schoolwide Learning Results (ESLRs). Recently, I’ve had to constantly harp on the points you’ve outlined above–it’s not about the tech tool, etc. A good example that comes to mind is the tired old “they need to know how to do a Powerpoint” comment. Too much focus on the tool and not enough focus on the process of presentations and desired outcomes (effective presentations).

    Thanks for the post. It really helps solidify some of the points I’ve been making. Maybe our focus group should read this 🙂

    • @Chris Bell, – thanks for stopping in, Chris. While I agree that sometimes, “they need to know how to do a Powerpoint.” Rarely do kids need the slow, deliberate “training” that adults sometimes do. It is true that a certain proficiency is required in using any tool for a real instructional purpose.

      However, as opposed to breaking down and teaching “tools” (aside from other core content) in one specific class, I would argue that a focused approach by a edtech savvy staff could deliver these skills on an “ass needed basis” to our kids. I think we would all agree that the best time to focus deeply on learning a tool, is when you have an immediate and direct need for that tool.

      Learning PowerPoint, or any other tool for that matter, just to fulfill a sometimes unconnected rubric in a “technology” or computer apps class is less effective than being truly integrated across the curriculum.

  2. Another great point that Nash alluded to is the fact that technology initiatives are often aimed at the students and skip over the teacher. PD and communication opportunities that utilize web 2.0 apps need to be expectations so that staff can understand and truely see the value in these modes of instruction.

  3. This topic is crucial if technology lovers are ever going to gain credibility in the good-old-boys’ club of traditional educators. We need to stop geeking about snortling with our toys and start hunkering down to the academics, and we need to start looking for and expecting rigor in our lessons. Many technology-based classroom lessons that I’ve seen are shallow and are focused on fiddling with the tools rather than on targeting and nailing learning objectives. I’m an instructional technology integrator, and I love using technology in the classroom (and fiercely believe in its merits as an engaging tool for learning), but I do admit that there are times when simple low-tech options fit a learning objective better than a high-tech gadget. Books are still rich resources. Dynamic teachers/lecturers are still worth listening to. Heck, even drawing a graphic organizer by hand is worth a student’s time. (Gasp!) In a blog post on a similar theme, I push for the backward design model (inspired by the book Understanding By Design) and ask educators to start insisting on rigor and challenge in the classroom, whether using technology or not. It’s time to ask teachers, “What’s your point?” http://edutwist.com/elin/2009/03/teachers-whats-your-point/

    • (groan! correction to my post to correct a syntax/punctuation error): We need to stop “geeking about,” snortling with our toys and start hunkering down to the academics, and we need to start looking for and expecting rigor in our lessons.

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