Magic Bullets Don’t Exist

Techlearning has an article that was passed around our school email celebrating Eight More Reasons for Technology in Education. After reading it, I’m feeling a little like the crab in the photo above.

Now you may have noticed that I?m a fan of technology in education but I feel this list is, for the most part, the kind of thinking that leads people down very wrong roads. We’ve been looking for a savior for education for a while. It’s time we started realizing the savior of education must be the teacher- use all the tools available but it’s really up to them/us/you.

You can read the point by point below or my summary here.

Technology does nothing by itself. Technology doesn’t change teachers or how teachers teach. It simply makes certain changes easier. The sooner we stop celebrating magical techno things that don’t happen the sooner we’ll have real conversations about what needs to happen in school. Teaching with technology takes just as much work and planning as teaching without it (if not more in many situations). This is no Utopian ideal. Teachers need staff development, planning time and lots of hard work to start integrating technology into the classroom in the ways described below. Technology doesn’t make it happen- teachers do.

  1. Using technology involves the student in the learning process. Students using technology become active participants in the learning process instead of passive listeners.—- Technology doesn’t do this. Good teaching does this. Technology often makes this easier to do and leverages student interests but ask anyone who’s had to sit through a two hour Powerpoint if the technology engaged them in the learning process.
  2. Using technology eliminates most discipline problems. When the student is involved in the work, there is little time for trouble.—- It’d be interesting to see how many teachers with one to one laptop programs would agree. Technology does nothing to eliminate discipline problems. Technology does, once again, help you design engaging lessons which do decrease discipline problems but not because of technology.
  3. Using technology allows students to take ownership of the project. When the student is empowered to find his/her own answers, the learning process becomes much more interesting.—- A well designed lesson gives students ownership. Technology can’t do that. That has to be done by the teacher in partnership with the student. You’ll find the student can find their own answers in books, from people or on the Internet. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the ownership.
  4. Using technology transforms the teacher from authority expert to facilitator.The teacher becomes more of a participant than authority expert when the students use technology to find answers online.—- Bah- technology doesn’t change teachers. Having students find answers online doesn’t change a teacher into a facilitator any more than having a student find answers in books. Changing your teaching style to take advantages of the increased access the web gives you might transform a teacher but it’s a change in mind set not in technology usage.
  5. Using technology is familiar to today’s students. Technology use is part of the normal learning process for students; it is in their “comfort zone” and teachers often learn new technology programs along with students.—- I’m game up until the part about teachers. I don’t think teachers commonly learn new programs with students. I’d love for that to be the case but it doesn’t really seem to be what happens in real life.
  6. Using technology reduces the workload on the teacher. Technology as a tool enhances, and replaces, text, paper and pencil because students can use technology for both reference and presentation.—- I’m not sure about this connection. Because students can use tech for reference and presentation then the teacher’s workload is reduced? It might reduce the student workload but I don’t really agree with that either. It can change what they spend time and energy doing.
  7. Using technology allows for a smooth transition from school to work and school to college . Technology is used everywhere – in math, science, engineering, transportation, manufacturing, and every business application you can think of. From sales transactions and inventory control, to e-commerce, the uses for technology are limitless.—- I agree with this with the caveat that technology is used in relevant and real world ways. That’s certainly not always the case in schools.
  8. Using technology allows for the free exchange of information. The widespread use of compatible word processing and graphic software programs allow information to be exchanged easier than ever before.—-
    Well, technology allows for this. Too often schools often go to every length to make that exchange impossible.

Comments on this post

  1. Lyndsay205 said on September 19, 2007 at 11:46 am

    I do agree that no matter what is being taught the teachers must have time to prepare their lesson and to figure out how they will teach that lesson. I don’t agree though that, “The sooner we stop celebrating magical techno things that don’t happen the sooner we’ll have real conversations about what needs to happen in school.” I believe that those “real” converstations can happen at any time no matter how important some people make technology out to be. Technology is a great tool when it comes to helping students learn and in some cases even in helping the teacher teach. Yes teachers need staff developement and planning but without the technology we have today those same teachers would need even more time because they wouldn’t be able to plug information into a computer and print out handouts for their studenets or find necessary information as easily.

  2. Tom said on September 19, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Lyndsay205-

    My point is that incorrect statements regarding what technology will do wastes lots of time, energy and, often, money as well. When technology doesn’t automatically raise test scores this feeds the grist mill of those who don’t believe in the potential for technology (paired with sound instruction) to change teaching for the better.

    I am not saying anything bad about technology (the blog is called bionicteaching!:). I am saying that technology doesn’t magically change how teachers teach or how/what students learn- it just adds potential. If teachers aren’t aware of or choose not to exploit that potential then nothing is gained. That is where staffdev and planning come in.

    I am certainly not addressing handouts, scheduling or any other non-instructional use of technology. Computers make those things easier and more efficient.

    Tom

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